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JBLM soldiers gain financial knowledge at AER challenge event

Soldiers with the 6th Military Police Company, 22nd MP Battalion enjoyed some laughs as they completed games for team points during an Army Emergency Relief Financial Literacy Challenge March 22. Photo credit: Pamela Sleezer, JBLM PAO

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - Soldiers with the 6th Military Police Company, 22nd MP Battalion participated in an AER Meets Financial Literacy Challenge March 22 where they learned details about the Army Emergency Relief assistance program, as well as financial lessons and guidance from AER specialists and Financial Readiness Program counselors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

During the event, participating soldiers divided into teams to hear a combined AER and financial briefing and then competed in games to score team points. By playing a round of Jenga or miniature golf, teams earned points based off their moves that matched smart financial decisions and then risked it all with a spin at the Wheel of Life that could slash or double scores if a player landed on tiles like co-signing for a loan or choosing to invest in a Thrift Savings Plan.

"The games help to illustrate how different choices can affect you financially," Scott Davis, FRP financial counselor, said. "A lot of times, people don't understand how credit scores work or how valuable investments can be, so we try to find fun ways to help explain it."

JBLM first offered the AER challenge event last year and according to Mary Cron, JBLM AER officer, it is already growing in popularity.

"We have units like today who do small group events and then we have some units who are planning a joint event with other units that will be on a much larger scale," Cron said. "It is really gratifying to see units recognize the value of this event and ask us to visit with them."

Cpt. Brandon Duran, commander of the 6th MP Company, 22nd MP Battalion, said he was excited to invite the AER team back after hearing positive feedback from his unit after last year's inaugural event.

"The AER team's ability to teach and spread information with the unique games keeps us engaged and helps us to retain what they are teaching," Duran said. "It's a much better approach than PowerPoint. Last year, we had senior NCOs with more than 17 years in the Army telling us they learned more during the training than they had their entire career."

Not only is the AER team a knowledgeable source for the information, Duran said the team's passion for helping soldiers is clear.

In fact, helping soldiers is exactly why AER specialist Omar Henderson joined the AER team in January.

Henderson said he was familiar with the AER program from his time in service when he served as an AER representative for his unit and when he was a First Sergeant signing off on AER requests. Still, he said he had no idea how many ways the program can benefit soldiers until he became a part of the program.

"It's been eye-opening, really," Henderson said. "Seeing things from both sides helps me have the knowledge of the program and the knowledge of how much more we still have to do with educating soldiers on all the ways it can help them. I'm still new and learning, but I really believe I'll be able to make a difference in the lives of soldiers and their families through AER."

The AER campaign will continue through June 14. Anyone who would like more information about the AER Meetings Financial Literacy Challenge, may contact the Armed Forces Community Service office at 253-967-9852 or email

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