Commander Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Baltimore City. After graduating from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1987, he enlisted in the Navy as an Aviation Electrician. After applying to the Naval Academy, he was accepted into the Naval Academy Preparatory School, before attending the United States Naval Academy in 1991. He graduated with an Engineering degree and was commissioned an Ensign in 1995. Upon completion of Surface Warfare Officer School, Commander Phelps reported to USS PLATTE (AO 186) to serve as Auxiliaries and Electrical Officer, then as Assistant Operations Officer. In 1997, he reported to USS TRENTON (LPD 14) as Administrative and Navigation Officer.
Commander Phelps then reported to Afloat Training Group, Atlantic as a Training Liaison Officer in 1999. He attended Surface Warfare Officer Department Head School in Newport, Rhode Island in 2000. Upon graduation in 2001, Commander Phelps reported to USS ASHLAND (LSD 48) serving as Operations Officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2003, Commander Phelps was ordered to the staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Six as Operations Officer and served on staff for Expeditionary Strike Group Six as Assistant Operations Officer. In 2005 he was ordered to Afloat Training Group Atlantic as Scheduling and Assistant Operations Officer. In 2007, he was selected to assist with the establishment of Destroyer Class Squadron, serving as Combat Systems Training Officer. In March 2008, Commander Phelps reported to JCCS 1 to serve in Iraq as an Electronic Warfare Officer for various Marine Corps Infantry Battalions until 2009. He reported to USS JASON DUNHAM (DDG 109) in May 2009 as Executive Officer. In September 2011, he reported to Afloat Training Group Norfolk as Executive Officer.
Commander Phelps has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal (five awards), the Navy Achievement Medal (four awards) and is authorized to wear numerous campaign and unit awards.