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1,500 rounds of missing ammunition was likely an internal accounting error, Maryland National Guard head says

Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, head of the Maryland National Guard.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, head of the Maryland National Guard. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, head of the Maryland National Guard, said Thursday that her organization’s inability to account for 1,500 rounds of ammunition from its response to the 2015 unrest in Baltimore is “an internal military issue” that was reported through the appropriate channels.

She said she believes what occurred was an accounting error by the logistics team distributing the ammunition, which “in the haste of trying to get” soldiers deployed “may not even have had the right starting count.”

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Singh said “at no time” did the M4 rounds “end up outside of the control of the Maryland Guard,” and that she has “absolutely no concern that any of this is on the streets” of Baltimore.

“There were no civilians in and around where we were and where we did our hand-off” of ammunition, she said, and no soldier walked off with ammunition. If they did, they would be court-martialed, she said, because it would represent a “serious offense.”

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The Maryland National Guard cannot account for hundreds of rounds of ammunition that, at least on paper, were distributed during the unrest in Baltimore in 2015, guard officials have acknowledged.

“This was within our site, and they did a complete shutdown and inventory when they found out they had an issue,” she said. “We think that in the haste of when they were issuing [the rounds] out, they had the wrong counts to begin with.”

She said the guard would not necessarily be able to audit its stocks of ammunition to determine whether an accounting error was to blame.

Singh’s comments come a day after the Maryland National Guard acknowledged it was missing the ammunition on its books. The discovery was first reported by WBAL.

Col. Charles Kohler, a guard spokesman, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that the discrepancy was discovered almost “immediately” after the guard’s deployment in Baltimore and sparked two separate investigations.

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“We didn’t follow established procedures in issuing the ammunition and that’s how we were unable to account for the ammunition,” Kohler said. “Since then, we have modified our procedures for bringing on soldiers on state active duty and also withdrawing them from state active duty.”

On Thursday, the Maryland Democratic Party tried to make hay of the missing ammunition politically, suggesting it was a “cover-up” by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who appointed Singh to her position in January 2015 and who is up for re-election this year.

After supporting police and providing security without significant injuries or incidents, Maryland National Guard leaders are fielding questions from their counterparts around the country, who are bracing for the possibility of disturbances in their own states.

“Governor Hogan needs to come clean with Marylanders about why this was kept quiet for 3 years, despite the clear threat to public safety,” said Kathleen Matthews, the state party chair, in a statement.

Singh said that was not true.

“The governor did not know about this,” she said.

Singh said the issue of the missing ammunition came to her soon after it was realized, because “whether its a thousand rounds or one round, when we have a discrepancy like that, there is a process that we have to follow.”

That process was followed, Singh said. She “ripped into some folks” below her, the missing ammunition was reported within military channels and the investigations were launched, she said.

The process did not include notifying the governor, she said, though she did let him know in broad brushes that the guard “had supply issues and challenges” during the unrest that it was working to address for the future, she said.

“That’s kind of how I left it,” she said. “I didn’t go into any details.”

Hogan was briefed on the missing ammunition only after the issue was raised by members of the media this week, Singh said.

Kohler said all guard rounds are marked and would be identifiable if used.

“If a round is fired, the police would be able to tell if it was one of ours,” he said. “That hasn't happened. Not one of our rounds has been used in any kind of unlawful situation.”

He said the guard does not expect that to change.

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