Military service teaches sacrifice and how good it feels to serve others. For Colonel Rod Azama, that feeling is continuing well into retirement.
Azama, who serves on the Board of Managers of both AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust LLC (AWM&T) and AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS), grew up in Hawaii and graduated from West Point in 1972. During a 24-year Army career, he served overseas, including in Korea, Germany and the UK, and spent time at Fort Campbell, the Pentagon and other locations. Azama retired from the military in 1996, but continued working for the government as a trade official and later in national security and cybersecurity.
“A lot of my work, both volunteer and professional, has been in the service sector,” he says. “It’s a good fit for me based on my values and my background.” Read more on Azama’s background.
Azama volunteers for several Veterans service organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Japanese American Veterans Association, Wounded Warrior Mentor program, and the Maryland Veterans Home Commission, which oversees the Veterans home run by Maryland. The state of Maryland has an especially strong and active Veterans support program, he says.
He’s also volunteered for more than a dozen clinical drug trials, including the anthrax and pneumonia vaccines, and most recently for Phase 3 of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial. Phase 3 is when the pharmaceutical company uses human volunteers to test the drug’s efficacy and look for any adverse reactions.
Last summer, Moderna was vetting volunteers over age 65 for its COVID-19 vaccine trial, with priority given to first responders.
Azama applied to be part of the trial but was not sure he’d be selected. However, when the doctor interviewing him found out he’d been a long-time member of the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps (one who volunteered for COVID-related PPE distribution, logistics collection, and emergency food distribution), they decided he was, indeed, a good fit for the two-year study.
In the double-blind Moderna study, 50% of the participants receive the actual vaccine while others are given placebo shots. Azama received his first shot in September 2020 and second in October 2020. He didn’t experience any side effects – other than a sore arm – after the first shot, but after the second one he ran a high fever, had a sore arm, fatigue and body aches.
“I was pretty sure I was getting the real vaccine at that point,” he says. It was a risk he was willing to take (and continues to take) to help others. “Life is a risk,” he continues, “and you have to assess and take some calculated risks or you’ll be buttonholed.” In August 2022, when the Moderna trial is finished, he’ll be eligible to volunteer for another study and he’s already in touch with one for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a disease that most severely affects infants and senior patients with compromised immune systems.
Azama has been involved in a lot of organizations, and has given freely of his time and talents over the years, and that includes his service with AMS and AWM&T.
He joined AAFMAA as a Member in 1972 and has remained a member through today, seeing AAFMAA grow to serve more branches of the military and non-military uniformed services (like the Public Health Service and NOAA); expand its insurance products; open new business entities for wealth management and mortgages; and expand geographically by opening AMS offices recently in more southern and western states.
AMS and AWM&T are overseen by a distinguished Board whose names are recognizable to many. These Board members have helped maintain traditions and values, while innovating to offer new products and services to keep abreast of changing financial, military & public service, and regulatory environments.
He was approached by AAFMAA’s former President and Treasurer, Walter Lincoln, to join the AMS and AWM&T boards, and it was a natural fit. Azama and Lincoln were classmates at West Point and both taught the Financial & Invest Management course while assigned to USMA’s Department of Social Sciences. Lincoln developed USMA’s most popular elective at the time, which Azama later inherited.
Azama brings both military, cybersecurity, and financial expertise to his roles with AMS an AWM&T, having studied finance & economics at the graduate level at The Wharton School and serving in cryptologic assignments. “Working so closely with AAFMAA Mortgage Services and AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust allows me to continue to provide service to military families,” says Azama. “I appreciate the company’s values and military Veteran focus, and their products are extremely competitive in terms of rates, fees, performance and service.”
He encourages young servicemembers to think about using AMS and AWM&T early in their career to plan for their financial future. “It’s to your benefit to have a tax-advantaged financial account like an IRA early to take advantage of compounding interest,” he says. “Time is your ally.” For older Members, he spreads the word about AWM&T’s trust services and AMS mortgage products including construction loans for Members building their forever home.
“While in the military we learned the value and rewards of service,” he says. “Being part of this company, and helping spread the word about their services, lets me continue to help others during my lifetime.”
We’re Here to Help
For assistance with a mortgage to build, buy, or refinance a home, contact AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS) using our online form or give us a call at 844-218-6926. An AMS Military Mortgage Advisor will be happy to provide you with an honest and fair comparison of your mortgage options, including a wide range of low-rate and low-cost mortgages designed to meet your needs.
If you are interested in financial planning, investment management, or trust administration services, please contact AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust at 910-307-3500 or use our online form for a complimentary investment portfolio review.