What Air Force Aid Society is all about

  • Published
  • By Andrew Posey
  • Airman and Family Readiness Center
The Air Force Aid Society is the official charity of the U.S. Air Force. It was incorporated in 1942 as a non-profit organization whose mission is to help relieve financial distress of Air Force members and their families and to assist them in financing their higher education goals.

The roots of the AFAS go back to 1942 in response to Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold's concern that members of his Army Air Forces faced unique hardships in meeting the challenges of World War II. General Arnold wanted a national organization that could provide emergency assistance to the wives and children of war casualties and assure the availability of educational assistance to those families.

The AFAS is not an official Air Force organization; it's a private non-profit organization. However, since the AFAS exists to help Airmen, there are close ties to the official Air Force. The deputy chief of staff for personnel acts as the AFAS liaison with the Air Force, publishing and disseminating guidance for AFAS activities at base level.

Air Force Aid Society has always relied on individual donations to fund its activities. I am proud of Team Lajes because during this year's annual AFAS fund drive, we led the Air Force in contributions in our group. Airmen have generously contributed to AFAS throughout its 68-year history. Early donations funded programs and allowed the AFAS to put some money aside in an investment fund for contingencies and future programs. That investment fund now earns income which is used to supplement annual contributions ... thus helping more AF members and their families. It is a matter of policy that every dollar donated to the AFAS goes directly to assisting our Airmen.

Fortunately, the investment fund mentioned earlier now provides income to supplement emergency assistance programs and pay conservative AFAS operating costs. In 2009, direct assistance to Air Force members and families totaled $21.6 million - more than 42,000 Airmen were helped. Active duty and retired Air Force members and their dependents are eligible for AFAS assistance, as are the dependents of deceased Air Force members who died on active duty or in retired status. But make no mistake, 90 percent of all assistance goes to the active force. The overwhelming majority of the financial assistance given is in no interest loans. That assistance is given to help solve a problem so that the member can focus on the Air Force mission.

In addition to emergency assistance, AFAS has a number of community enhancement programs. The AFAS is always examining ways to be more responsive to the Air Force community. Many bases offer the "Give Parents a Break" program, which enables base officials to offer periodic child care at specified evening and weekend times for qualifying personnel. This is particularly helpful when a spouse is deployed or other personal emergencies occur. Other programs, such as Bundles for Babies, Child Care for PCS, and Car Care Because We Care are also available.

AFAS sections are located at bases throughout the world and most are located in the Airman & Family Readiness Centers. In all cases, the Lajes A&FRC is familiar with the criteria needed to receive assistance and with the local community so personal attention is given to every request for assistance.

The Air Force Aid Society gives us one more reason as Air Force members to celebrate the Year of the Air Force Family.