Celebrating Our Veterans: James M. Betancourt, Lt. Col.
(left to right: W. Scott Enochs, Lt. Col., Elisabeth Betancourt (James' daughter) and James Betancourt, Lt. Col at Enochs' retirement.)
In February of 1981, at age 23, James M. Betancourt, DNP, APN – currently a Nurse Practitioner at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital – enlisted in the United States Air Force, at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove. He served for over 36 years, before retiring just over a year ago, in October of 2017. His last unit of assignment was at the Delaware National Guard as Lieutenant Colonel.
James’ father served during World War II, and his brother served during the Vietnam War, which is part of what inspired him to enlist.
“I guess I was attracted by the challenge,” James explained. “Their recruiters didn’t pursue like others; they said if you’re interested, you’ll come to us.”
After completing basic training at Willow Grove, PA, and medic training at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX, James transferred to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He was stationed at McGuire for 4 years and attended school in the evenings. However, the commute became too much of a hassle, and he decided to transfer back to Willow Grove and finish his nursing degree. For 15 years, he worked his way up the ranks, from Airman Basic to Master Sergeant, and then was commissioned as an officer.
As a medic at Willow Grove, James rotated through different sections in the physical exam process, including pulmonary function testing and immunizations. At McGuire, there were times he assisted flight surgeons in planes transporting babies in incubators. As an officer at Willow Grove and at Delaware, he ran the National EMS Certification program for the medics. Throughout his various assignments over the years, his favorite was being a provider.
James toured to national bases in California and Florida, as well as to overseas bases in Japan, Spain, Germany, the Azores islands (off of Portugal) and Saudi Arabia and Oman during Operation Desert Storm. One of his favorite tours was Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida; it reminded him of the 1960s’ sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
One of James’ most distinct memories from serving occurred in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield.
“We flew out of Dover into Germany, and from Germany, into Saudi Arabia. There was an alarm for MOPP (mission oriented protective posture). So, we were taking off these layers of clothing – our masks, hoods, gloves – little by little. I asked someone how often they go through these exercises. The answer was it wasn’t an exercise. There was a scud missile launched on us. So, I’m like, okay, this is the real deal.”
James is a member of several veterans’ organizations, including: the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Army & Navy Union Garrison, the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS), the Reserve Officers Association and the Knights of Columbus. He’ll become a Fourth Degree (Patriotic Degree) member with the Knights of Columbus this Veterans Day.
A Philadelphia native, James earned his ASN, BSN, and MSN from Hahnemann University School of the Health Sciences, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine). In 2017, he earned his DNP from Grand Canyon University.
James joined Jefferson Health – New Jersey, then-Kennedy Health, in August 2012.
“Everyone here is just great to work with. The trust and faith that these folks have in me, and I in them, is just a great feeling.”
Thirty-six years of serving the nation shaped the way James serves the community at Jefferson. “I’ve kept those core values – it’s integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.”