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News | May 1, 2024

Retired SMA Grinston highlights Army Emergency Relief Fund and the importance of mentorship

By Elsa Moseley Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Army Emergency Relief Fund CEO and retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to speak with Service Members and leaders on how AER supports financial readiness during a town hall Feb. 22.

As the first former enlisted member to head the AER, Grinston leads the Army’s largest nonprofit providing grants and loans to Service Members and their families to shoulder financial emergencies. During the town hall, which served as one of the first opportunities to promote the 2024 AER campaign, Grinston emphasized how AER assistance can help members facing interpersonal conflict to avoid a potential downward spiral due to financial distress.
“I want [AER] to be the number one non-profit of choice. If we get a call, we’re going to help. Even if that help is to direct Soldiers to the right people,” Grinston said. “Financial readiness is a very upstream approach that can help prevent suicide and domestic violence. If I can help somebody not go to a predatory lender because they’re afraid to go to the Chain of Command, and that person avoids an argument with their spouse, maybe we can stop a domestic violence situation. If I stop the domestic violence, but their spouse leaves and the Soldier has a gun and they’re at home in financial crisis, AER can help avoid a potential suicide.”

A branch of the Army’s Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program, AER provides assistance through grants and interest-free loans for many financial need categories, including housing, vehicle maintenance, and travel emergency and transition assistance. AER also provides career skills program and financial literacy training for Service Members and their families.
Several members from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and others also joined the town halls for to hear about multiple topics during Grinston’s time as SMA.

Grinston also highlighted why mentorship is critical for military force readiness by sharing how he continues to provide guidance to Soldiers. Staff Sgt. Jann Latayan, a member of WRAIR’s Veterinary Services Program, became one of Grinston’s mentees after connecting with the retired SMA through social media. Latayan emphasized how mentorship developed his current leadership journey and trajectory.
“My first supervisor, Staff Sgt. Lynn Marsh, mentored me in conduct and discipline. Through mentors like her, the Army NCO Corps provides effective mentorship by helping subordinates lead the Army for the next generation,” Latayan said. “In 12 years of service, I’ve encountered good and bad leaders and combined lessons from those experiences to shape my leadership style. It’s my responsibility to be fair through open and effective communication channels and I learned from SMA retired Grinston, that it doesn’t matter who you are. Treat everyone with respect regardless of rank.”

After the professional development session and AER Town Hall brief, WRAIR Service Members expressed how honored they were to meet and speak with Grinston.
“It was very important to have him visit. There are Soldiers who may need the help but are not aware of the AER program,” Latayan said. “I was happy he could meet with so many members from our area so they could hear about this resource.”

The 2024 AER campaign occurs from March 1 to June 14, 2024. As of April, WRAIR has donated more than $500. For more information about AER, please visit