Army Emergency Relief’s new grants help soldiers learn skills for post-military life

Leaving the Army can be tough for some soldiers who have spent their whole professional careers in the military.

The service has made quite a few advances with its Soldier For Life campaign to help service members land on their feet when they finally leave the military, but some of those programs can be cost-prohibitive.

Army Emergency Relief (AER), the service’s official non-profit, is trying to change that by offering $3 million in grants to soldiers in 2022 for the Career Skills Program (CSP).

The initiative puts soldiers in apprenticeships, job-shadowing opportunities or training provided by corporations that team with the Army, with the expectation that a soldier will be hired when they leave the service.

“It’s good for the Army, but it’s also good for the corporation,” Scott Wilder, financial assistance administrator at AER, told Federal News Network. “They’re getting pretty skilled service members who have a lot of qualities you just inherently learn in the military like time management and organizational skills.”

However, some of the CSP opportunities can be expensive, requiring materials, travel or other investments like professional clothing. Also, in the past soldiers were limited to the geographic CSP opportunities near them. Now, with the new grants, AER hopes to help more soldiers joint CSP and go to the training of their choosing.

The grants give $500 to soldiers who are attending CSP near their home base, $1,000 to soldiers traveling long distances and $1,500 to those coming in from overseas.

The Army allows soldiers about six months to work in the CSP program.

“CSP skills can range anywhere from truck driving to mechanics, to body repair, to computer programming,” Wilder said.

He added that AER is starting to see increased interest in the grants.

AER has been helping soldiers since right after World War II.

“The goal of AER is to assist service members, retired service members and their families, to include survivors, with assistance in times urgent need or desperation,” Wilder said. “We really are an ever-evolving organization in my opinion and we have we have 34 categories of assistance.”

Those include helping with medical bills or car loans.

Soldiers can also go to any of the sister services’ relief organizations to get help.

More recently, AER has been helping assist soldiers affected by COVID issues. Moving and housing has gotten more expensive.

The organization is even helping soldiers keep their pets during the pandemic, AER will provide loans or grants up to $5,500 to help service members bring their furry friends overseas with them.

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