BOSTON — The Navy's oldest commissioned floating Naval warship is now at the helm of its first female captain.
Captain BJ Farrell is the 77th commanding officer for the ship which is named for America's founding document, the Constitution.
"Today we have over 30 women in command of ships around the world, so I get to highlight that on a daily basis," Captain Farrell said.
A trailblazer in her own right, especially when you consider no other woman has been at the helm of this ship in the 225 years it's been in existence. Her rise and rank is has gained national notoriety this year from across the country.
"I hope it shows [other young girls] they can do whatever they put their mind to," Captain Farrell added.
First launched in 1797, the USS Constitution was crewed by 450 men. This warship is now run by about 80 men and women. They are hand-picked by the Navy for two-year deployments. Their mission is part ship maintenance and part public relations. An estimated 500,000 people visit the historic site in Boston each year.
Visitors also come to the ship to learn about its history inside the USS Constitution Museum. Museum President Anne Grimes Rand sees Captain Farrell rise in the ranks as a role model for other young women.
"I think it's so exciting to take a symbol of our nation and have a woman at the helm, the Navy after 225 years is giving women equal opportunity to serve. It speaks to the progress of our nation," Grimes Rand said.
Over the years there were two times this ship was almost scrapped. Now the Navy grows trees in a protected grove in Indiana to make replacement parts for the vessel.
"This ship is made in America, all our natural ingredients, we looked at the European model and made her a little bit stronger a little bit bigger a little faster a little better," Grimes Rand added.
These days there are no battles for the Constitution. She sails about six times each year including once on the 4th of July to help commemorate America's independence.
Keeping her safe while at sea now requires modern-day protection. Whenever she takes to the water, the Constitution is escorted and flanked by the Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit. Before each sail they dive beneath the boat, just to make sure no one has targeted the ship with explosives.
"It's a national treasure and something that needs to be protected," said Det. Lt. David Twomey who helps coordinate efforts to protect the ship while she's at sea.
The ship is a symbol of American greatness and unity at a time when so much of the country is divided. And for the Constitution's first female captain, it offers a chance to help preserve the past while sailing toward the future.
"I love the Navy and to tell this ship's story is an honor," Captain Farell said.