WASHINGTON–When things go wrong in people’s lives, they often hear the clichéd advice to “look for a sign.” But for Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, it was not a sign but a booth in a mall that was the key to solving her problems.
After leaving her home in Frederick County at the age of 16 as a result of a dispute with her parents, she was sleeping from place to place without a real home and started working at a mall where she came across a military recruiting booth, Singh said.
Previously Singh had hoped to study electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. Instead she joined the Army National Guard in 1981.
“The military was one of those choices where I felt like it was an option that was going to give me a chance to do something bigger than what I was doing, I felt like that was my outlet. I had no idea that it was going to lead to where it is today, but I am thankful for it,” Singh said in a recent interview.
On Feb. 28, she assumed command of the Maryland National Guard, appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan as the state’s 29th adjutant genera. She is the first woman and African-American to serve in that position.
Singh lived with her grandparents until the age of 9 in a male-dominated household, so entering a career field where men made up the large majority was not an issue for her.
She attributes her strength as a person to the family members she interacted with when she was younger, including her grandparents, whom she described as “very strong and very value-based individuals.”
Singh also credited her parents, whom she moved in with at age 9, for her strong will.
“I’d have to say that my whole life stands for someone that is very strong-willed,” Singh said.
She demonstrated this early on in her career by working as a single parent and struggling to make it to drills for 2 1/2 to three years. At one point she had no car and sometimes she had no babysitter, but she persevered.
Singh, 50, has spent most of her life in Maryland. She was born in Montgomery County, grew up in Frederick County and lives in Prince George’s County.
She graduated from Columbia Union College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and received master’s degrees and certificates from several other institutions.
She has two daughters and a husband of more than 22 years, all of whom she describes as very supportive of her.
In her civilian life she has been serving as the director of operations at Accenture, a company that provides management consulting, technology and outsourcing services.
Singh began her military career as an enlisted personnel specialist in the Maryland National Guard. Commissioned as an officer in 1991, she has been deployed twice overseas, once to Kosovo in 2006 and once to Afghanistan in 2011, where she received the Bronze Star for her service.
While the Bronze Star is one of many citations she has received, Singh said this medal means a lot to her because it was a rugged deployment where she worked seven-day weeks and 12 to 15-hour days.
“I put a lot on the line, my own personal self on the line, to be able to go and do that deployment as many of us do, and I felt like if I wasn’t right there doing it with my counterparts and my folks, then who am I to be able to stand up and lead them at the end of the day,” Singh said.
As adjutant general, Singh hopes to ensure the Maryland National Guard is an “organization of professional excellence” by pushing those within the military department to “be the best that they can be at what they do.”