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USS Constitution has its first female commanding officer in its 224-year history

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Updated: Fri, 21 Jan 2022 18:00:43 GMT

Source: CNN

Cmdr. Billie Farrell on Friday became the first female to captain the USS Constitution in the historic warship's 224-year history.

Farrell assumed duties as the 77th commanding officer of Old Ironsides following a change-of-command ceremony held Friday at Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard.

A native of Paducah, Kentucky, Farrell was a sixth grader when she happened to watch a US Naval Academy graduation on TV, she told CNN in a recent interview. In awe of the ceremony, she told her parents that's where she'd attend school.

Later as a sophomore in high school, she and her family road-tripped to visit the Naval Academy in Annapolis, before vacationing in Boston and touring the USS Constitution. Wearing a Navy hat and all white, Farrell posed for a photo before the ship.

While she had envisioned attending the Naval Academy, Farrell never imagined her path would lead her to commanding the USS Constitution.

"To be the commander of her, and have ties to the heritage of our Navy and our country, is just an unbelievable experience," she told CNN. "And to be the first woman to do it is also special because there are so many women serving our country right now, and so I get a chance to represent them."

Farrell graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2004 with a degree in political science, according to her Navy biography.

Her most recent assignment was as the executive officer aboard the USS Vicksburg. Her job in the Navy had been as a surface warfare officer, with the bulk of her military career spent on sea and some breaks working in administrative roles.

Her military career started with her first two tours aboard the USS Vella Gulf, whose homeport is in Norfolk, Virginia, from 2004 to late 2007.

Farrell was then assigned to the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee, from 2008 to 2011, during which she received her Master of Science in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas.

She returned to the sea, reporting to the USS San Jacinto in March 2012 as the weapons officer and later as the combat systems officer.

Farrell served a stint at the US Naval Academy as the deputy director for professional development from 2015 to 2017. She then reported to Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic until 2020, when she left to serve on the USS Vicksburg.

She has been awarded numerous military decorations for her service.

As Farrell breaks barriers as the USS Constitution's first female commander, women have been a part of the ship's crew since Rosemarie Lanam became the ship's female crew member in 1986. Lt. Cmdr. Claire V. Bloom, was the first female commissioned officer to serve aboard the USS Constitution and led a historic sail in 1997, when the ship sailed for the first time under her own power since 1881.

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


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