Nothing says “we appreciate you” like a stack of awards, certificates, and letters of commendation.  The Civil Air Patrol has sent that message loud and clear to Jason Ebersole, Associate Dean of Health Sciences at Yavapai College, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, who gives his available free time, emergency medical skills and military experience to the CAP, a non-profit auxiliary of the U.S Air Force.

On paper, in frames and in engraved plaques, CAP awards compete for space with four computer monitors and multiple college-degree certificates in Jason’s small office on the YC Prescott Campus. The declarations of appreciation and commendations have him looking back with pride on his distinguished CAP service and contemplating what’s next for him in the organization that carries out search and rescue operations and provides aviation, leadership, and STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) training to 12 to 21-year-old cadets.

Having started his CAP journey as a parent advisor when his son, Austin, decided to add an Air Force component to his Junior Reserve Officer Training at Bradshaw Mountain High School, Jason is now in his second year as the Deputy Commander of the Prescott Composite Squadron 206 of the Arizona Wing of the CAP. “I was just going to hang out with my son, but they had other plans,” Ebersole said of CAP leadership.

The awards and promotions have piled up as Jason has risen through the ranks, completed professional development steps and accepted more responsibility for the squadron and its cadets. Added to the awards stack most recently were a Deputy Commander of the Year Award and a Commander’s Commendation for Excellence while serving as the Chief Training Officer for the CAP Summer Encampment. The awards were presented in surprise fashion during an all-staff and cadet meeting in early September. Jason was expecting to promote cadets at the meeting, but realized something was up when the Vice Commander of the Arizona Wing arrived. “I was there to present awards and promotions for the cadets. I was dressed up (in uniform) to have them take pictures with me, not for me to get awards,” he said.

Jason doesn’t regret getting more involved in the CAP over time. “It’s huge for our community to have a program that shows young people that they can be more than they ever thought – that instills in them the values of integrity, service above self, excellence in all you do and respect,” Jason said. “It’s time for us to grow up the next generations of leaders and they don’t necessarily have to be military leaders.”

A strong sense of patriotism and the desire to serve his country steered Jason into the Air Force after high school and some college in California. “I also saw that the military would provide me with valuable training and education opportunities that ultimately lead to valuable skills and qualifications that I use to this day,” he said.

Including three years with the CAP, Jason will notch 30 years of Air Force service in 2024. His active-duty and Air Force Reserves experience includes work in operations management, logistics, and an assignment with a special operations command. Serving both in Special Operations Command and the Air Education & Training Command gives him a unique perspective on the military tenet of “play how you practice,” he said. “If you want to perform strongly in any area from sports, to military, to health care, to business, you can't slack off in your practice, because what you do most of the time is what you get used to doing.”

Jason thought his military career was winding down when his son suggested they join the CAP together. “He said ‘dad, this is something you and I could do together.’”

Jason obliged his son despite a premonition that, because of his previous Air Force experience, he wouldn’t remain a parent advisor for long. “I knew the minute they saw my name come across their desks, I’m going to get a phone call.” The phone call came and with it the statement, “you know we need a Deputy Commander there.”

Jason’s wife, Rho, a YC Nursing alumna, joined her husband and son in the CAP, becoming the “squadron mom” and sponsor member.

At the same time he was making a name for himself in the CAP, Jason was transitioning into leadership roles at YC. After teaching EMS, Allied Health and science for nearly 15 years, and serving on the faculty Senate and other student-success oriented college committees, Jason was promoted to EMS Director last March. Five months later, he was named Associate Dean of Health Sciences.

Jason attributes his success at YC to amazing mentors and to Dr. Marylou Mercado, YC Associate Vice-President of Health Sciences, and the fact that teaching has been a mainstay in his life.

“I’ve always taught. I taught in the military. I taught in youth groups and was a youth pastor before I came here (to YC). It’s a natural thing for me to teach,” he said, noting that he’s still in the classroom teaching anatomy and physiology to paramedic students.

A YC alumnus, Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and a master’s degree in molecular medicine and biomedical science.

What’s on the horizon for Jason? Perhaps a promotion from Captain to Major in the CAP and continuing in a command position. He also plans to continue doctoral studies in the health sciences.

Just as it did at the beginning, Jason’s attachment to the CAP hinges on his son. “If he (Austin) continues on (after graduating from BMHS this spring), it could be another four years,” he said. “There’s an outside chance I could make it all the way to Lieutenant Colonel. Maybe we have some time to contemplate that.”