Lt. Col Phelan graduated from the Air Force Academy in June 1993. His fist assignment was as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, 56th Fighter Wing, Luke AFB, AZ. He Commanded 115 airmen and coordinated maintenance among six work centers supporting 209 F-16 and F-15E fighter aircraft. In 1994, Lt. Col Phelan was selected to attend Undergraduate Navigator Training at Randolph AFB, San Antonio. Upon completion of training, he was assigned to fly RC/OC/WC-135 aircraft at the 55th Wing, Offutt AFB, NE. In 1999, Lt. Col Phelan was assigned as Chief Air Operations Officer, where he managed the $75 million dollar RC-135 aircraft in all tactical aspects of high priority reconnaissance missions, ensuring successful data collection of foreign strategic weapon systems.
During the initial phases of Operation Enduring Freedom, Lt. Col Phelan was handpicked to serve as the Deputy Commander for Cobra Ball flight operations and flew the first ever combat sortie of that weapon system over Afghanistan in January 2002. He separated from active duty in 2002 and transitioned to flying the C-130 aircraft with assignments in both the Air Force Reserves and the Air National Guard. During this time, he deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Lt. Col Phelan is a Master Navigator and logged over 2,800 hours in RC/OC/WC/KC-135s and C-130E/H aircraft, and he has flown 240 combat sorties.
Fred currently serves as a reservist with the United States European Command Headquarters staff in Stuttgart, Germany. His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
Fred lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife, Melissa, and his two children.