Past Newsworthy Dads

Exclusive Interview with Commander Castellano, a Hero Knight

Fathers for Good conducted an exclusive e-mail interview with Cmdr. Francis X. Castellano, the head of the USS Bainbridge who directed the operations that resulted in the dramatic rescue of Capt. Phillips from the Somali pirates on Easter Sunday.

 

Cmdr. Frank Castellano

Cmdr. Castellano has been a Knight of Columbus for more than 20 years. For more information on him and his family, see the story further down on this page.

Fathers for Good: Tell us about your experiences with the Knights of Columbus.

Cmdr. Castellano: The Knights of Columbus was a big part of my childhood due to my father's vast involvement in our home council Patchogue #725 and then as a General Agent.  I remember accompanying my father to the numerous parades in Patchogue they were involved in, attending various functions at the council, and going to the annual Children's Christmas party.  As a teenager, I worked at the K of C catering hall as a waiter, busboy, dishwasher, and janitor.  I became a 1st degree member in June 1986 prior to attending the U.S. Naval Academy starting in July 1986.

During my last shore duty assignment in the Memphis, Tennessee area, I volunteered at Germantown Council #7449 and became a 4th degree member of Holy Cross Assembly #3048.  While in the Germantown area for three years, I participated in many K of C events including Sunday morning breakfast fund raisers, monthly council social dinners, and the Memphis Birthright Ball.  My brother Knights in Germantown are terrific guys and life-long friends.

FFG: What role does faith play in your commitment to your job and your family? How do you cope with long sea assignments away from family?

Cmdr. Castellano: From my parents' involvement in our hometown church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Patchogue, NY, through being an Extraordinary Minister at several churches, to my family's present day involvement at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, VA, my Catholic faith has been a strong part of my life ever since I was a child.  My faith has taught me to be honest, forthright, hard working, and fair.  These traits all factor into my strong commitment to my profession and family.

I cope with long sea assignments away from family by knowing that there are people back home who care for me and keep me in their prayers to remain safe.  Being a United States Naval Officer is both a profession and a calling, to serve your country with a dedication to the protection of the ideals on which the United States of America was founded upon.  Additionally, I know that I am ultimately responsible for the lives and welfare of 270 Sailors onboard BAINBRIDGE - that keeps me properly focused.

FFG: Looking back on the rescue of Capt. Phillips, what is the most memorable part for you?

Cmdr. Castellano: My most memorable moment regarding the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips was when I actually shook hands with him and welcomed him onboard USS BAINBRIDGE (DDG 96).  I said to him "Welcome onboard BAINBRIDGE, I'm so glad you're here" and he responded back with "I'm very glad to be here."

 


 

Hero On the High Seas

When duty called and the world was watching the pirate hostage situation unfold, Cmdr. Francis X. Castellano performed his job with honor and distinction.

As the commander of the destroyer USS Bainbridge, Castellano was on the front line of the rescue operation that freed Capt. Richard Phillips from the grips of the Somali pirates, who had boarded his merchant ship Maersk-Alabama, and taken him hostage four days earlier.

The rescue on Easter Sunday, April 12, involved Navy snipers who killed three of the pirates holding Capt. Phillips on a covered lifeboat after they left the recovered Maersk-Alabama.

“We all worked seamlessly together, ensuring that the mission was accomplished,” Castellano told MSNBC in an exclusive televised interview.

Calling the situation tense, the commander said, “In the forefront of my mind was ensuring that Capt. Richard Phillips was returned to his family safely and to the United States.”

Cmdr. Castellano, age 41, is a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He joined Patchogue Council (N.Y.) # 725 in 1986, before his 20th birthday, and became a member of Holy Cross Assembly 3048 in Tennessee in 2006.

His father, also Francis X. Castellano, is a retired general agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance program.

Cmdr. Castellano is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Navy War College. He had formerly been assigned as an operations chief on the USS Cole, which was bombed by terrorists in October 2000.

Capt. Phillips also is Catholic, and Catholic News Service published a story about his Vermont parish and pastor praying for his safe return.

‘An Easter to Remember’

Lisa Castellano, the commander’s wife of 19 years, spoke to Fathers for Good by phone two days after the rescue.

“He called me last night. I was happy to hear his voice,” she said, speaking from their home in Virginia Beach, Va., where they live with their two teenage daughters. “He wanted to talk to me and his girls, to see what was going on in our lives.”

Castellano had been deployed on February 20th to patrol for pirates in the waters off Africa, she said.

“When the news began to break on Wednesday (April 8th) about the hostage situation, I had a feeling my husband would be involved. That was confirmed later that day when I heard the name of the ship on the news reports.”

She continued, “He’s a dedicated professional. He’s a family man, a man of faith. I didn’t have any fears for his abilities in the situation. But I had the natural fears any military wife would have for her husband.”

Mrs. Castellano and her daughters were visiting friends on Easter Sunday when news broke of the successful rescue of Capt. Phillips by the Bainbridge. She was in the backyard hiding Easter eggs for the children when she was called inside to see her husband’s picture on television.

“It was a time for celebration,” she said. “It was definitely an Easter to remember.”