Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, the first woman and African American to command the Maryland National Guard, announced Tuesday that she plans to retire this summer.
Singh will be succeeded by Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, according to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office.
Singh’s retirement will cap a military career of more than three decades that took her from enlisted soldier to deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo and ultimately to the top military job in the state of Maryland.
Singh, 55, said in a statement that when she took over the guard in 2015, she focused on making “a fair and equal organization within the Maryland Military Department."
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“Today, I can proudly say with absolute confidence that we truly are one unified department that’s serving the people and communities of Maryland that we dearly love,” Singh said.
Singh led an all-female command staff for the guard in Maryland, with Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead leading the Army National Guard, Brig. Gen. April Vogel leading the Air National Guard and Command Sgt. Maj. Perlisa Wilson serving as senior enlisted adviser.
Singh joined the Maryland Army National Guard in 1980 and was commissioned as an officer in 1991. She’s won a number of medals in her career, including the Bronze Star.
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, appointed Singh to head the Maryland Army National Guard in 2013, and then Hogan promoted her in 2015 to adjutant general of the Maryland Military Department, which includes the Maryland Army National Guard, the Maryland Air National Guard, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the Maryland Defense Force. She supervised 5,500 soldiers and airmen and 1,000 state and federal employees.
Hogan, a Republican, said Singh has been an “integral” part of his administration.
“Her leadership abilities have been an asset to the Maryland National Guard and the state," Hogan said in a statement.
When Singh took command in 2015, she said: “This is absolutely the best job I could hope for in the military and the best state in which to do it.”
Just a few months after taking command of the Maryland National Guard, Singh helped lead the response to rioting and unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man, from injuries sustained in police custody.
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More than 3,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen patrolled the city for a week, unnerving some residents while providing others a sense of safety. It was the guard’s first deployment to Baltimore in 47 years — the last time coming after rioting in 1968 in the wake of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Following the deployment in Baltimore, Singh briefed her counterparts in dozens of other states on the operation.
“It could really happen anywhere,” Singh said at the time. “It’s not that these are bad places or anything. It only takes one issue that can really get people upset and for that to spiral.”
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Singh also spoke out about sexual assault, revealing that she had been assaulted as a child and teenager in a public service announcement produced by the Maryland National Guard in 2014.
“We’re having a lot of problems with suicide," Singh told The Baltimore Sun at the time. “We’re having a lot of problems with sexual assault. Sexual harassment. I have not had these situations while I was in uniform. But I know what it is to be a victim.”
Singh said she hoped discussing her own abuse would encourage other victims to come forward, as well as impress upon commanders the importance of taking reports of assaults seriously.
Singh’s successor, Gowen, most recently served as an assistant to the commander of the U.S. Army Futures Command, which is focused on modernizing the Army.
Before that, Gowen was the assistant adjutant general for the Maryland Army National Guard from 2015 to 2018. His background with the Army is as a pilot, and he holds a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Gowen’s appointment will be subject to a confirmation vote by the state Senate when the General Assembly convenes in January.
Hogan also announced a new leader for the Maryland Air National Guard on Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Edward S. Jones. He’ll replace Vogel, who is planning to take a new position as the Air National Guard’s director of personnel.