Maj. Sean Fazande was entrusted to lead a first time U.S. Air Force exercise this summer, as the Destrehan native guided the COMBAT Sentry command and control evaluation.
The goal was to hone tactics, techniques and procedures regarding performance of Battle Management Command and Control systems. It was a successful exercise, and his performance was praised by his peers.
“I’ve done many exercises, but have never had the Air Combat Command Commander much less the Secretary of the Air Force highlight the accomplishments of our exercise,” Fazande said. “My team and I didn’t expect it … our efforts are always directed at the professional execution of our duties to add value to the whole of the force.”
The 53rd Wing of the Force’s Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) has long measured the effectiveness of fighter and bomber weapons systems in combat-relevant environments, allowing fliers to drop live bombs and fire live missiles at drone targets. This was the first such exercise for Command and Control, however.
And it was an important one. When the stakes are highest, as they are in combat situations, military hardware must be constantly updated and fit.
Military hardware adheres to a lifecycle that requires consistent evaluation for performance and relevance in today’s battlespaces,” Fazande said. “Combat Sentry filled a gap in this cycle as it is the first time such a large Command and Control (C2) exercise focused solely on the human, technical, and tactical aspects of employing C2 in a threat representative environment.”
To prepare for it, he spoke to other experts in the field to narrow down a target and determine what issues were most problematic in evaluating systems throughout the Air Force.
Making the exercise a bit more challenging was an environment where contact was restricted by COVID-19 measures. Several stakeholders were involved in the process and needed to be updated and several organizations had to be coordinated for the exercise to go on without a hitch.
In this effort, a team of three would have to do the job. Under normal circumstances, that number would be closer to 20 or more personnel members.
“The experience was much like being a conductor of an orchestra without the practice,” Fazande said. “That meant leaning on the experience of our professional Airmen to execute the plan.”
He said his team took on the challenge, noting his belief that as professional military members, “we thrive in a chaotic environment as we work to bring order to it.”
Fazande joined the Navy in 1997 as an Aviation Machinist. Nearly a decade later, he was commissioned by the Air Force.
“I wanted to make a difference in leadership there,” Fazande said.
With over 22 years of active duty service, he has logged more than 1,800 combined hours in flight while flying on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft as an operator, instructor and evaluator.
He leads mission requirements for personnel and manages the $10 million range control system and two million dollar Battlefield Command and Control Center-Theatre. He also is a key figure in developing programs designed to enhance weapons system integration and assessment.
Fazande became interested in joining the military as he heard exciting stories from his grandfather, who served in World War II.
“He instilled an interest in strategy through chess, and passed on his sense of wanting to secure what we enjoy here at home. It inspired me to serve,” Fazande said.
Fazande also became one of the very first Jr. ROTC Drill Team commanders at his alma mater Destrehan High School after the unit’s first year in action.
“It felt like a natural fit,” he said.
Fazande said he’s proud of the work he’s done over the past 23 years, and said the experience, connections and capabilities built through the Air Force, along with raising his family, have made his sacrifices worth it.
He plans to retire over the next few years and return from Florida to his home state, Louisiana – most of his family is spread between Destrehan and Des Allemands.