Doug Abbott – Trojan Traveling the World of Oil Rigs
Doug Abbott wanted to be a coach but after a year on the basketball sidelines, he took his education and work ethic and put it all on the line in an oil field. He knew he needed to provide more for his family but what he has given them has been a world-wide opportunity that began on the campus of Mississippi Delta Community College in the fall of 1992.
Abbott grew up in Indianola and was a basketball standout at Indianola Academy and MDCC Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Vickers offered him a scholarship. He took the coach up on his offer and put in two years on the JUCO hardwood.
The six-foot, seven-inch forward enjoyed success his freshman year with a North Division Championship but the wins were fewer his sophomore year. He then transferred to Delta State to finish his education but he’d like to of stayed at Moorhead if at all possible.
“Junior College basketball – I wish it had been four years. At Delta State it was a job but Coach (John) Vickers and my freshman year, we had a pretty good team,” he said.
Abbott would soon go from the streets of Moorhead and Cleveland to the coast of Africa and beyond working oil rigs around the world.
“I’ve been working overseas since 2000 – Nigeria, Angola, Leone, Cameroon, the Conga, Brazil and living overseas since 2006,” Abbott said.
Abbott majored in Health with a minor in Psychology and a minor in Business. But on the oil fields it’s about putting in the work, not touting and relying on a college sheepskin of educational merit. The former high school coach put his all into the job and like his strenuous basketball workouts, he found success and continued to grow and build upon it. But he was first offered a job washing clothes. He didn’t think too highly of the offer.
“I had played basketball in college, worked on farms my entire life and I wasn’t going to wash clothes. So, they stuck me offshore as an 010 Roustabout – a welder’s helper. I’d already doubled my salary from coaching. And they worked 14 days on and 14 days off so I basically worked six months out of the year.”
Abbott kept his head down and did his job and never mentioned his college degree and worked his way through the bottom jobs all the way to the top in his career.
“I worked my way in every position till I got to the rig floor. From Roustabout to Roughneck to Shakerhand to Deckerhand to AD to Driller to Toolpusher to OIM and now Rig Manager. At one time in my career, I was an Opps Manager,” he said. “It took me about 10 years on the rig before I got in the office in 2007.”
The oil rig world first took him overseas to Trinidad for a year before going to Nigeria and then the West Coast of Africa. From there he began his “tour” of the Middle East.
“In 2002 or 2003, I got a promotion to push tools in Qatar and I had no idea where in the world Qatar was. I had to get out a world map,” he said. “I went over there and worked for about a year and then got called to the Houston (Texas) office for about six months. Basically, they were preparing me manage some rigs that were going to Saudi Arabia.”
He flew to Dubai and lived there for a year getting the rigs ready. After spending five years there, he went to India for two years then back to the states to Houston. His merry go round of oil work survived the worldwide economic downturn in 2008 as he was picked up by another company and went back to the Middle East.
His family, wife Jamie (Jefcoat) and children came to Bahrain and then India and back to Bahrain and Malaysia. When his oldest children, twins Anna and Ashland got to be high school age, they came home to Mississippi to attend Pearl River Central High School. His son Anderson is 13.
Looking back on his time at Moorhead, Abbott notes several MDCC teachers who influenced him greatly.
“Brian Noble’s mom was the greatest woman on earth – (librarian) Mrs. Beverly Noble has a special place in my heart because whenever we needed something all we had to do was ask. She was always there for us. She and D.K. Baria were always good to me and the basketball players,” he said. “Doc (Allen) Snowden, Cecil Culpepper – they were fine men – those would be the four teachers who made an impact on my life. Before I came to Moorhead, Doc Snowden tutored me in math.”
Abbott understands that the folks who surrounded him beginning at Indianola Academy and then at MDCC helped him learn the valuable skills and life lessons that have made him successful on the oil fields of the world.
“My time at Moorhead definitely grew me to be the man I am today. Especially, in the business that I am in. I’m running a $300 million dollar rig and I’m in charge of 150 people,” he said.
Being overseas and especially the Middle East, Abbott has been “in some hairy situations” with wars and uprisings. He even had to smuggle his wife and kids out of Bahrain in 2011.
“Being there were two rigs in Saudi, I had to stay,” he said. “I lived in a compound and we had a wall around our house.”
Even with all the danger that has surrounded his job and career, Abbott’s favorite job stops were working in Malaysia and then Bahrain.
“Even though its (Bahrain) in the Middle East, there’s a family atmosphere. There’s a lot to do with kids and it’s a 45-minute flight to Dubai and you can ski in the mountains there.”
Getting used to working overseas, Abbott’s rig in Qatar has 24 nationalities of workers. He’s picked up bits and pieces of language, especially some Arabic to get by. He admits he does get home sick but he’s found ways to be an American overseas.
“You miss the family but the big picture is I’m providing for them like you could never justify and I’m the one sacrificing for them. But what I miss is basketball – college basketball and high school football and Mississippi State football,” he said.
He spends his free time lifting weights and working out and he gets together with a group of guys to watch professional soccer.
“You pick up other sports worldwide but even with ESPN+ the games are 10 hours difference. The games are all in the morning when I’m sleeping,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve ever missed is both of my girls are cheerleaders and they’ve been in homecoming but I got to fly back for that. I miss my kids growing up.”
The 47-year-old plans to stick it out till retirement age around 62 or so. He enjoys catching up with high school and MDCC friends.
“The one thing about it is, I’ve never been to a high school reunion. I’d love to get home and see folks I graduated with. But that’s just the nature of this,” he said. “You have a job and you do it. You get to see everybody’s lives through Facebook.”
Abbott has been able to “find normal food” but in India “you can’t eat beef and in the Middle East you can’t find pork. But when I lived in India, I’d fly to Singapore and load up all the beef and carry it in. It was against the law but they never checked my bags. And here, I know the stores to go to get pork. In Saudi, you’re not supposed to drink alcohol but it’s there if you want to find it.”
He noted that the biggest problem is the heat while on the rig. The steel is heated up all day so the heat stays through the night.
“It gets unbearable. At night it will be 120 degrees. It gets so hot and so dry but you just work through it,” he said. “I give them breaks when I deem they need breaks. I worked on the rigs in the Middle East so I know what they go through.”
Abbott explained that biggest key to surviving and working overseas for so many years comes from lessons learned early in life.
“Be aware of your surroundings and always, always respect the religion and respect the culture. You do that then they will love you no matter what nationality you are.”
His days on the JUCO basketball court toughened him up for a life on an overseas oil rig and his MDCC teachers and experiences grounded him with knowledge to be successful at it as well.