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Francis Xavier "Frank" Castellano is a United States Navy captain currently assigned as the commanding officer of Center for Surface Combat Systems.[1] Castellano is best known as the commander of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge during the hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama.

Frank Castellano
090413-N-0000X-001-Cmdr Frank X Castellano.jpg
Castellano during his tenure as a commander.
Birth name Francis Xavier Castellano
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1990-present
Rank US Navy O6 infobox.svg Captain
Commands held USS Chinook
USS Bainbridge (June 2008 – April 2010)
Battles/wars Maersk Alabama hijacking
Awards Defense Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal (four awards)
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Navy Commendation Medal (three awards)

Captain Castellano was listed as executive officer of the USS Vella Gulf on May 5, 2014, during a holocaust memorial ceremony in Haifa, Israel.[2] He was executive officer of Vella Gulf from December 2013 to April 2015 and was commanding officer from April 2015 to September 2015.[3][4]


Early life and educationEdit

Castellano graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1990, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in History. He has attended the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a Master Of Science Degree in Systems Technology (Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence), and the United States Naval War College, earning Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies.


Castellano's naval sea duty assignments include O.I. Division Officer, Auxiliaries Officer, and Communications Officer of USS Anzio; Operations Officer of USS Cole; Commanding Officer of USS Chinook; as Executive Officer of USS Donald Cook and as Commanding Officer of the USS Bainbridge from June 2008 until April 2010.[4][5] Ashore, he served as an Associate Fellow to the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XVI and as a Surface Warfare Lieutenant Commander – Commander Assignments Officer, Navy Personnel Command (PERS 41). He was also previously assigned to the Joint Forces Staff College.[4]

Maersk Alabama hijackingEdit

Castellano with Captain Phillips after the latter's rescue from pirates in April 2009.

Castellano was the commanding officer of the Bainbridge during the April 12, 2009 rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia. On April 12, 2009, Phillips was rescued from his pirate captors.[6][7]

According to Kirk Lippold, former Commander of the USS Cole and superior officer to Castellano at that time, in a statement about Castellano in the hours prior to the rescue, "He – Frank is absolutely rock solid. He is a very, very mature and experienced commanding officer. He's had command previously of one of our navy's patrol craft. So with him being on Bainbridge, I have absolute confidence that he's in the right place at the right time for a reason and that he'll do a great job there."[8][9]

Castellano stated that as the winds picked up, tensions rose among the pirates and "we calmed them" and persuaded the pirates to be towed by the Bainbridge.[10] Vice Admiral William E. Gortney reported the rescue began when Castellano determined that Phillips' life was in imminent danger and ordered the action. President Barack Obama had previously given orders to take no action unless it was determined that Phillips' life was in immediate danger.[11][12]

A reporter summarized Vice Admiral William Gortney's description of the final events: "Just before the shooting, Capt. Phillips was topside of the lifeboat. One pirate was behind him, pointing an AK-47 rifle at him. The head and shoulders of each of the other two pirates were also visible above deck of the enclosed lifeboat. Determining that Phillips might be shot at any moment, the commander ordered the action."[13] Castellano stated, "[We] ultimately believed the pirates were about to kill the captain. That's what was the decision point."[14]

U.S. Navy SEAL snipers on the Bainbridge's fantail opened fire and killed the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat. The Bainbridge had the life boat under tow approximately 25 meters astern at the time. A fourth pirate was aboard Bainbridge negotiating a ransom and was taken prisoner. The U.S. Navy evacuated the Maersk Alabama's captain, Richard Phillips, to the Bainbridge and then flew him by helicopter to the USS Boxer for a medical evaluation.[6][7]

Awards and decorationsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Castellano is a Roman Catholic. At his parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Patchogue, he served in turn as an altar boy, usher, lector, and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.[15] Castellano is a member of the Knights of Columbus Patchogue, N.Y., Council 725.[16] Married to Lisa.

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^
  3. ^, accessed July 2015.
  4. ^ a b c [2]
  5. ^ "Photos from 2008 USS Bainbridge change of command". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  6. ^ a b Verjee, Zain; Starr, Barbara (April 12, 2009). "Captain jumps overboard, SEALs shoot pirates, official says". CNN. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "US captain held by pirates freed". BBC News. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009. 
  8. ^ "FBI Negotiating for Captain Held Hostage by Pirates". CNN. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  9. ^ McFadden, Robert D.; Shane, Scott (April 13, 2009). "U.S. Captain Held by Pirates Is Rescued". NYTimes. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  10. ^ "Commander Castellano interviewed by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News". MSNBC. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  11. ^ "Official: US sea captain faced imminent danger". Associated Press. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  12. ^ Mikkelsen, Randall (April 12, 2009). "US acted after pirates aimed at ship captain". Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Navy Rescues Captain Phillips". Sense of Events. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  14. ^ "Ship's Commander Recounts Dramatic Rescue". NPR. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  15. ^ "Heroism on the High Seas". Columbia. November 2013. pp. 24–25. 
  16. ^ "Knight instrumental in Somali pirate rescue". KnightLine. May 2009. 

External linksEdit