First female commander appointed to lead USS Constitution


The ASU Constitution, commonly referred to as “Old Ironsides”, has a long and storied history. Now he’s about to make history again.

On Friday, January 21, at precisely noon Eastern Time, a woman will take command of the ship when Commander Billie J. Farrell relieves Commander John Benda. Commander Benda has led the ship’s crew since February 2020.

“I am honored to have the privilege of soon commanding this iconic warship that goes back to the roots of our nation and our Navy, and to have had the incredible opportunity to serve as the first female commanding officer of the USS Constitution in 224 years,” Commander Farrell noted. “I hope to strengthen the legacy of the USS Constitution through preservation, promotion and protection by telling her story and connecting it to the rich heritage of the United States Navy and warships serving in the fleet today. “

A historical legacy

Once independence was recognized in the United States, they had to defend themselves against foreign navies and pirates. To accomplish this, Congress authorized the construction of the first six warships in 1794, the National Park Service Explain. These warships became the new US Navy.

Construction on the USS Constitution began in 1794 in a Boston shipyard. The ASU Constitutionwhich is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812.

The ASU Constitutionwhich was undefeated in battle, actively defended the sea lanes from 1797 to 1855. During that time, the ship and her crew destroyed or captured 33 adversaries, according to the US Navy.

Now, about that nickname. During the War of 1812, the Constitution the crew defeated four British frigates in three separate engagements. The ship was called “Old Ironsides” after British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the Constitution solid oak shell.

More historical achievements

Commander Farrell is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and the University of Arkansas. His most recent position was as general manager aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg.

While Commander Farrell will be the Constitution first woman commander, she will not be the first woman to serve on the ship.

“It’s an exciting time in Boston with a female mayor and a female captain for Old Ironsides,” said Anne Grimes Rand, president and CEO of the USS Constitution Museum. “Women have been represented in Constitution crew since I joined the museum staff in 1986, and the first female officer came on board in 1996.”

Indeed, the first female commissioned officer to serve aboard the USS Constitution was Lieutenant Commander Claire V. Bloom, who served as executive officer. The first female crew member was Rosemarie Lanam, an enlisted sailor, who joined USS Constitution’her crew in 1986, says the Navy.

Today, women make up more than a third of the 80-person crew.

“I know the crew is in good hands with Commander Farrell,” Commander Benda said. “This historic barrier should be broken a long time ago. I can’t think of a better candidate to serve as USS Constitution first female commander. I can’t wait to see what she and the crew will accomplish in the next few years.

Know before you go

The ASU Constitution is operated by the US Navy, a partner of Boston National Parks.

USS Constitution will be closed during the ceremony, but if you want to visit at another time, here’s good news: tours are offered every 30 minutes. Each visit lasts approximately 30 minutes.

Admission to ASU Constitution is free. Admission to the USS Constitution Museum is by donation.

If you plan to visit, keep in mind that the USS Constitution is a historic ship, so accessibility is limited. The USS Constitution Museum is however accessible.

You can find out more about visiting the ship and the museum here.

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