Back to News Front

JBLM kicks off 2024 AER campaign

Soldiers representing the brigade level of each unit at JBLM underwent training on how to educate their fellow soldiers about the AER program following a kick off ceremony to this year’s AER campaign Feb. 29. Photo credit: Pamela Sleezer, JBLM PA

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - Any soldier, regardless of rank or experience, could one day find themselves in an unexpected financial emergency. That was the message leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord conveyed during the Feb. 29 kickoff event to the 2024 Army Emergency Relief campaign.

"Sometimes it happens, and it happens to the best of us," Maj. Gen. Michelle Schmidt, commanding general of 7th Infantry Division, said during her opening remarks. "And when it does happen it's nice to have a program like AER to turn to for assistance."

An official nonprofit organization of the U.S. Army, the AER operates through donations from fellow soldiers and retirees to provide grants, interest-free loans and even scholarships to soldiers and their families in need of assistance.

The AER campaign runs each year from March 1 through May 15, but the program operates year-round to provide support to soldiers.

To drive home this year's message, Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen LaRocque, Command Sgt. Maj. of 7th ID, shared on stage his personal story of getting help from the AER program, not once but twice in his career.

"About 25 years ago I was a young sergeant, and I had a wife that stayed at home with my two kids and one car, and our transmission went out," LaRocque said. "I did not know where to go. I didn't have $1,200 to spend on the repairs and I didn't know what to do."

LaRocque credited his squad leader at the time for stepping in and educating him on AER so that he could get an interest-free loan to pay for the repairs. Twenty years later, he said, he turned to AER again for assistance when he needed to fly his family of five from Fort Drum, New York to Colorado for his father's funeral.

"I could have charged it, put money on credit cards and paid interest rates. I could have, you know, taken some things out of investments and paid penalties," he said. "But instead, I turned to AER."

Now, LaRocque said he is passionate about spreading the word about AER to soldiers not just so that they can be aware that help is there for them, but also to encourage soldiers to donate to the program.

"Please take it seriously," LaRocque said. "It is your opportunity to make sure that this program can drive on and that soldiers can help one another, because that is absolutely what it's all about."

Last year, 1,347 soldiers and family members stationed at JBLM received assistance totaling $2.7 million, in addition to $198,800 being provided in scholarships.

Representatives at the brigade level of each unit across the installation are now being trained by Financial Readiness Program staff to assist soldiers with their contributions or requests for assistance.

Soldiers may donate to AER directly through their units by requesting and completing a contribution slip, or they may donate through the AER website at

comments powered by Disqus