The Army's Official Nonprofit Is Offering Grants and No-Interest Loans for Soldiers in Transition

1st Lt. Bryton Vanderloop, an executive officer with 65th Brigade Engineer Battalion, in the Anheuser-Busch warehouse in Hawaii. Vanderloop is currently participating in the Career Skills Program and is an intern with Anheuser-Busch Hawaii. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Melissa Parrish)

Army Emergency Relief is the official nonprofit of the U.S. Army. The organization was founded by then-Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall in 1942, as the United States entered World War II.

The nonprofit has programs for eligible active-duty and Reserve soldiers, spouses and even retirees who meet certain criteria, for things like PCS travel, home repairs and even spouse recertifications.

Most critical for soldiers who are retiring or separating from the military is AER's support for the Army's Career Skills Program. The nonprofit has now committed $3 million in grants to help soldiers improve their options as they transition to civilian employment through the Army’s Career Skills Program.

Since 2015, the Army Career Skills Program (CSP) allows soldiers to participate in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship ventures, on-the-job training, internships, job shadowing and other skills development and civilian training programs during their last 180 days of service.

Eligible civilian CSP training opportunities must be accredited with a federal agency or comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. They must also be a minimal cost to the government or the soldier, guarantee a job interview, carry a high probability of employment and the job must offer pay commensurate with the requirements of the position.

During their CSP training, soldiers will continue to earn their full pay and benefits, but cannot receive wages while attending. This might make it difficult for troops who are coming long distances to attend a program, especially for those coming from overseas duty locations.

Army Emergency Relief offers assistance in the form of grants up to $2,000 for soldiers who are attending an approved Career Skills Program. These grants can cover travel costs, work attire and supplies, lodging or utilities and food while attending the training.

Since its inception, AER as a whole has assisted four million soldiers with no-interest loans, grants and scholarships to the tune of $2 billion, with half of that coming in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It's overseen by an executive committee that includes retired Army generals and the sergeant major of the Army. It has already disbursed $1 million of its pledged $3 million to support soldiers in Career Skills Programs.

Assistance from the AER is not determined by the nonprofit itself, but instead it is approved by the soldier's chain of command. Soldiers can apply for the grant from two weeks before their Career Skills Program start date and until their date of separation.

For more guidance and to learn how to apply, check out the Career Skills Program Fact Sheet. Assistance is not available to members of other branches of the armed forces.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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