BALTIMORE — Major General Linda Singh has given nearly four decades of service with the Maryland National Guard. Singh is the first African-American, and the first woman, to serve as Maryland’s Adjutant General.
She's also the first to have an all-women command staff.
"I don't think they know how proud I am of all of them," she said.
Singh is a leader’s leader, a trailblazer -- she's a woman who has risen above the rest in a male dominated field.
When you strip down the numerous degrees and awards, Linda Singh is a working mom.
"We go to bed tired we go to bed late we get up early," she said.
She's a woman who overcame challenges that might have broken somebody else -- poverty, sexual abuse, homelessness.
"When they convinced me to join the national guard and I was 17 years old I didn't really think about it," Singh said. "I thought I'm getting out of Frederick city I'm going to get off the streets."
Her survival skills helped her navigate some of the worst times in her military career.
"I said, 'I'm just going to ignore it and pretend this did not happen,' and he called me at home and his conversation was 'when I tell you to do something, you're to do it,' and thought of this is so wrong," she said.
In a time when women weren't empowered to report sexual assault in the military, Singh showed remarkable strength and told her First Sergeant, who reassigned her.
"I already had my integrity and my self-esteem stripped away I wasn't going to let anybody else take that from me," she said.
Singh said it took hard work and sacrifice it took to command Maryland’s National Guard.
"I think back to early in my career I was married and then became a single parent and I didn't have an option," she said. "I didn't have an option of ‘oh I can't go to work today,’ I didn't have an option of oh I need to make more money that means I need to get a second job or in some cases a third job.”
"One thing I learned from my grandmother, my grandmother raised 14 kids plus -- myself she had me for nine years," Singh said. "She cleaned other people's houses. She came home and she cooked and we didn't have running water so when I say she came home and she cooked it was a matter of getting the water from the [sic] it was a matter of getting something out to cook or if my grandfather went hunting he was out cleaning whatever we were going to eat. I never complained I never heard her ever complain about taking care of her kids or her grandkids and that to me when I reflect back on that ... what right do I have to complain?"
Singh is a survivor, a leader and a role model -- not only to her team but to the children in her community.
"I drive in and out of Baltimore and I see the young men washing windows and I could easily say ‘don't wash my windows I don't ask them what they're going to do with the money," she said. "Sometimes I say 'Why aren't you in school?' Sometimes it really is about someone saying that we care and that we see them, not what we want them to be but that we see them."
While the Major General will retire at the end of August, she’s already looking forward to what comes next.
"I want to continue to make an impact in my own way," Singh said. "I'm not going to stop doing me but you know I am going to use every bit of skill every bit to talent I've garnered over the last 38 years and I'm going to try to bring that to bear here in the state of Maryland and globally who knows but I'm looking forward to doing big things."