July | August 2017


Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh serves as the 29th adjutant general of Maryland, where she oversees the daily operations of the Maryland Military Department, including the Maryland Army National Guard, Maryland Air National Guard, Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Maryland Defense Force. She said the leadership skills and global experience garnered through military service gives service members unique skills to bring to the workplace.
By CSG Staff

What are the two biggest challenges facing the men and women who serve in the National Guard today—both in Maryland and around the country?

“Personally, the biggest challenges are the balance between family and work, but professionally it is trying to work in a resource-constrained environment that is not always using our talents and skills to the maximum extent possible—which then leads to career development challenges.”

As someone who became a citizen soldier early in life—following difficulties in your youth that included periods of homelessness—what did the Guard mean to you then and today?

“Then, the (National) Guard was a job, a way to make ends meet, a necessity. But now it is my passion that fuels me. My passion for serving in a way that many of us take for granted.”

You are the first African American and the first female serving as Maryland’s adjutant general. With the number of women and minorities in leadership posts increasing, what changes do you see for the armed services?

“The biggest changes I see for the armed services is redefining how we see our greatest asset—our people and the capabilities they bring as part of being diverse. Ultimately, we will see more diversity at senior levels and we will be a better organization because of it. We will be better because we will look more like the people we serve and we will be more diverse in thought and ideas.”

How can states best maintain the National Guard’s preparedness to respond to any situation while relying primarily on citizen soldiers?

“The first (way) would be to maximize training opportunities that may be available, such as overseas training and exercises with other components to include our civilian agencies. While many don’t consider the requirements for these types of activities, there are many parallels that are similar—if not the same skills—that we would use to deploy to theater. It is all in the way you think about the various tasks and purpose.”

What skills did your military experience provide that helped in your civilian positions?

“First would be (my) leadership skills. While this may seem very basic, there is a distinct difference (between) being a manager and being a leader. It is clear that my leadership skills are a key differentiator. Second, global and international experience is critical when working for organizations that have a broad global client presence. This is especially important when linking the business understanding with the military experience in these environments.”

Employers don’t receive the same incentives for hiring members of the National Guard as they do for hiring veterans. How can states help encourage businesses to support National
Guard employees?

“The best thing is to focus on the quality of the employee that the employer is getting. Our National Guard members bring more to the workplace in many cases than an employee that has never served in the military. Focusing on the diverse capability, leadership skills and the global experience that many of our personnel bring should be thought of as a competitive advantage for employers, as well as a business imperative for a diverse talent pool.”

How can state and federal leaders better serve veterans once their service is complete?

“The most important level of support is in transition—by helping veterans transition smoothly through good, integrated programs. There are so many great organizations that want to help, but the challenge for many is (identifying) which ones are best suited for the need of the specific veteran. The other area that is critical … (is) veteran benefits, such as education, health and other programs that can really improve the quality of life for our veterans.”

The U.S. Army has made significant reductions of troops and more may be on the horizon for 2016. What is the impact of this for National Guard forces?

“We need to remember that the National Guard is a component of the Army and Air Force, so we are also experiencing the effects of the reductions to the point that we see the lowest numbers for troop strength that I have ever seen in my career. This will have an impact across our force. The challenge for the (National) Guard is not only dealing with the force reduction, but (also) the steadily declining budget. Amidst all of this turbulence, the one thing that I feel very confident about is, the (National) Guard is still well trained, operationally ready, focused and prepared to do whatever mission comes our way.”

How does the Maryland National Guard’s participation in overseas operations and conflicts impact the state?

“During the height of the war, at any given time there was one-third or more of our force deployed. While it was tough, this never impacted our ability to support our state mission. The training for federal missions … (and) our state mission does overlap in many areas, but the most important item is that the (National) Guard is even better suited for their homeland mission because of overseas deployments. In my view, this should not be an either/or, but is necessary based on the roles that we fill abroad as part of our state partnership program, in a deployed environment and other missions.”

You have spoken about the need to protect your soldiers and airmen from risks such as sexual assault, mental illness and suicide. Why is this so important to you?

“First, it is important because as a leader, we have a responsibility to ensure that our service members can serve in an environment that is supportive of them and their needs, but also an environment that is safe. Over my career and life, I have experienced a wide variety of things, but the worst thing anyone can face is when the system that is supposed to be there to support you lets you down. It is important to me to ensure that I do whatever is within my power to ensure my soldiers and airmen get the support they need without them having to worry about whether they will be judged or punished.”