Raymond Mason and Army Emergency Relief – Serving Soldiers
In a recent episode of our Veteran Influencer Podcast, we spoke to retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, Raymond Mason, who is now the director at Army Emergency Relief (AER) headquarters in Arlington, VA. Mason discussed his transition out of the Army, his path to AER, and things he learned along the way.
After serving in the military for 35 years, with four tours at the Pentagon, Mason knew his retirement was close. In his final role on active duty, he managed the Army’s $8 billion sustainment budget and oversaw the Army's global supply chain.
Even as a general officer, Mason found certain aspects of the process challenging. For example, negotiating salary.
“You aren’t going to be used to negotiating salary or looking through benefit packages,” Mason said. “In the military, those are all set. Part of the transition piece is to make sure you understand that you have to look out for yourself, your financial future, and the financial future of your family.”
Mason also advises being ready to adapt. “There is a mind change that has to happen when you go into the for-profit world,” he explained. “Profit companies are about the bottom line. They stay lean.”
A New Opportunity
Mason’s first job out of the military was at a for-profit company, where he worked for two years. While there, he gained in-depth knowledge about how commercial companies operate.
He enjoyed this role immensely, but when the current director of Army Emergency Relief called and asked if he’d be interested in “throwing his name in the hat” for the position, he couldn’t say no.
After an interview process that lasted for a couple of weeks, Mason was offered the position. “It felt like a calling,” Mason said.
More than anything, Mason was excited about working with soldiers again. AER, a non-profit organization, is charged with relieving undue financial stress on soldiers and their families.
Since its founding in 1942, AER has provided zero-interest loans, grants, and educational scholarships, ensuring no soldier faces financial hardship on their own.
“AER supports combat readiness by offsetting outside stressors,” Mason explained. “You can’t focus on training or the mission if you’re distracted by finances.”
To increase ease of access, there are AER “store front” locations on almost every Army base. However, as part of their COVID-19 response, most locations are currently closed. Instead, they’ve increased their capacity for virtual assistance, including offering an online application process with secure document upload and electronic funds transfer.
“It’s a tough job,” Mason said about working for AER. “It’s messy. It’s emotional. But at the end of the day, we are helping people get their lives back on track.”
He wants people to keep in mind that AER is not a hand-out, it’s a help-up. “Asking for help is a sign of strength. Don’t struggle by yourself,” he said.
As far as navigating the world in its current state, Mason said, “We will get through this. Life throws some curves, but AER is here to help you navigate the world as it exists today.”
To find out more about AER, or to learn more about what they are doing to help during the COVID-19 crisis, please visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/.
To listen to the interview in full, please visit https://bmi-vip.libsyn.com/ltg-ret-raymond-mason-director-at-army-emergency-relief.
By Elizabeth Stetler