Kentucky native to become first woman to command USS Constitution warship

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, January 18, 2022

History is being made aboard the U.S.S. Constitution this week.

Cmdr. Billie J. Farrell is scheduled to become the first woman to lead the crew of the 224-year-old warship known as Old Ironsides during a change-of-command ceremony on Friday. She takes over from Cmdr. John Benda, who has led the ship’s crew since February 2020.

Farrell is a native of Paducah, Kentucky, a 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and most recently served as the executive officer aboard U.S.S. Vicksburg, a guided missile cruiser, according to her Navy biography.

The Constitution, based at Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat. It played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812 and defended sea lanes from 1797 until 1855. The ship was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opposing vessels.

It earned the nickname Old Ironsides during the war of 1812, when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off its wooden hull.
It is crewed by active-duty sailors, about one-third of whom are women.