First female commander of the USS Constitution has strong ties to Massachusetts

BOSTON — The USS Constitution has never had a female commander in its famed 224-year history. Until now. “It’s very exciting, definitely an opportunity I never expected to have, but the second it became an option and something I could do, I immediately jumped on it,” said Commander Billie Farrell.

Ferrell has been appointed by the US Navy for a 2 year assignment as the 77th captain of the world’s oldest commissioned warship. Today women compromise more than one-third of the 80-person crew. “Women have been in command of ships since 1998, combatant ships. I’m just lucky enough to be the first woman to get that honor here,” she said.

Ferrell, who is married with two small children, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004. The Kentucky native swam for the Midshipmen all four years, but it was years before that when she

says she knew she’d end up in Annapolis. “I saw the Naval Academy graduation on tv when I was in 6th grade and I immediately told my parents that’s where I was going to go to school. I was just immediately drawn to the uniforms and the tradition and the ceremony that had went with what I had seen,” she said.

When she was a sophomore in high school Farrell and her family vacationed in Boston, where as destiny would have it, she had a picture taken standing next to Old Ironsides. “I never could have imagined that that was going to lead me here one day, with that and my husband’s family is also from the area, it’s a nice benefit. We can stay local with them for a couple of years,” Ferrell said.

The official change of command ceremony will be held Friday, January 21 at 12pm. Farrell relieves Commander John Benda. The Dedham native will attend the US Naval War College in Newport.

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