USS Constitution the Topic of Latest WIHA Dinner

Commander Billie Farrell, the first female commanding officer of the USS Constitution, shared her journey in the Navy and duties on the renowned frigate warship during the May 2 Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association dinner meeting in the Deane Winthrop House barn.

“The great thing about this position is it lets me speak to the fact that we have over 30 women in command of ships in the Navy today, and 70,000 serving on active duty,” noted Commander Farrell. “I represent them when I tell my story, as well.”

WIHA President Michael Herbert, Claire Hubbard, Commander Billie Farrell, and Dave Hubbard during the May 2 dinner meeting of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Society (WIHA).
Commander Billie Farrell speaking about her journey in the US Navy during the WIHA dinner meeting in the Deane Winthrop House barn.

Kentucky-born Commander Farrell was a competitive swimmer growing up, and dreamt of joining the Navy since she was in middle school. She studied political science at the United States Naval Academy, where she met her husband, who was originally from Peabody. Now she is the mother of a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl; and the family’s two dogs, Fenway and Bourbon, are a tribute to their home towns.

The first ship that Commander Farrell served on was a Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser. She has worked as a weapons officer, responsible for large weapons, missiles, and submarine warfare, and was also assigned as a combat systems officer for the Aegis Combat System.

Commander Farrell has taught seamanship and navigational courses at the Naval Academy. She also served as a deputy operations officer for the Commander Naval Service Force Atlantic, the admiral responsible for scheduling and planning the Atlantic fleet of the Navy.

Commander Farrell later became the executive officer of a missile cruiser. For the past 19 years, she has been commissioned as a surface warfare officer, committed to maintaining and operating ships around the world.

In January 2022 Commander Farrell became the 77th commander of the USS Constitution.

“She is undefeated at battle. The War of 1812 was when she gained her notoriety. The Constitution returned to Boston, victorious, and the name, ‘Ironsides,’ was born,” said Commander Farrell. “There is no iron in the ship, even today. Ten to 15% of the ship is original, which is a testament to Paul Revere, who covered the bottom of the ship in copper to help prevent deterioration.”

The USS Constitution will be 226-years-old this year and has sailed internationally representing the United States of America. There are 80 active duty sailors on the USS Constitution, which receives some 600,000 visitors each year.

“Today our mission is to preserve, promote, and protect the legacy of the ship,” Commander Farrell maintained. “The Constitution was built for freedom of the seas and anti-piracy. We’re here to tell that story.”

There is a base in Indiana that grow oak trees to repair the USS Constitution, and Commander Farrell hopes to visit it with her family this year, and speak to local schools about the famous ship.  “My favorite part of my day is talking to kids when they come on the ship, giving them that connection to where we started, and where we are today,” Commander Farrell said

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