BALTIMORE - If you earn a Brigadier's star in the U.S. Army, you are no joke.
The Army is saying that you are a leader of soldiers and fit to command.
And as the first woman and first African American woman to command the Maryland National Guard Brigadier Gen. Linda Singh is definitely no joke.
“I lead two very demanding careers,” Singh said. “Do I wish that on anyone? No not necessarily, but people think I’m crazy it's stuff that I enjoy.”
Singh has an MBA and working toward a Ph.D. and is an executive at one of the nation's largest consulting firms. She's also a veteran of Kosovo and Afghanistan and has earned a Bronze Star.
But one of her favorite jobs is talking to young people about seeing the future; this is especially true with young women. This is because when she was their age that star on her shoulder was far, far out of reach.
“I would have been on welfare. I think I would have had any number of kids. I probably would have been on drugs… running the streets and you know you were headed for trouble,” Singh said.
Sexually abused by a relative at 16, Singh says she went from class officer and basketball player to being kicked out of the house after her family didn't believe she had been abused. She dropped out of school, got pregnant, and struggled to support herself.
An Army recruiter told her about military careers, but at the time she says she was more interested in just getting off the streets.
But she still wasn't on the path to that star just yet she was an enlisted soldier and still trying to find herself. And the Army did just that; a lesson that she tries to get young people to hear.
“First you need to figure out who you are,” she said. “It took me until I was in my 20's before I really figured out who I was as a person and what I truly wanted to be.
“You have have that time to let yourself come in to your own and I know it seems like they want to rush and they want to do all these great things. If it's worth having then you're going to have to do the work and it's worth waiting for.”
Singh says she this isn't about recruiting people to join the Army; although that she believes that would be fantastic.
This is about recruiting the spirits of young people to do more with their lives.
She says it's about focus, and patience and seeing a future, because there is a star for everyone to follow.
“For me to be out and to really be in the community to kind of talk about what it took for me to get here to talk about what others can achieve is extremely important to me,” she said. “If I do nothing else and if I was fired tomorrow I'm still going to be out and be and talking to your young leaders because that is extremely important.”