A surprise graduation: Soldier receives college diploma upon return from Middle East

U.S. Army Spc. Douglas Long achieved his Associate's Degree in Building Construction Technology while studying virtually overseas

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Thousands of college students had to finish off their semesters learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, one Midlands Technical College student not only managed to achieve his degree on his computer, but did so while serving overseas.

U.S. Army Specialist Douglas Long completed his Associate’s Degree while serving with the South Carolina National Guard in the Middle East.

“The internet service in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, it’s subpar at best, you can say. You’re lucky enough to get your phone calls, so you have to take your tests accordingly. I know there was many a night where I would wait until 2 or 3 in the morning to take an exam, because the bandwidth was just overloaded,” Long said.

Long had been serving in the Middle East since last August, his first time serving overseas.

Before his deployment, Long had been pursuing his degree in building construction technology at Midlands Technical College, as well as a certification in carpentry.

“When he was late or he was gone doing something and didn’t have Wi-Fi at a certain time, his professors worked with him, and worked around his schedule, and that was great,” said Carolann Addison, Long’s fiancé.

Even though he said some days were harder than others, Long pushed himself to finish his courses.

“It was one of those things I told myself ‘I need to finish this before I get back because there’s other things I want to grow and do when I get back’ so I wanted to make sure I got it done and got it taken care of,” Long said.

When Long returned from his deployment Friday afternoon, he was greeted by his fiancé, family, and friends but also by Midlands Technical College President Ronald Rhames and South Carolina Adjutant General Van McCarty. 

In the lobby of Columbia International Airport, Rhames led an impromptu graduation ceremony, where he awarded Long his diploma.

Now back home, Long says he’s excited to put his degree into action, but also encourages others to keep pushing themselves forward even when times are tough.

“Figure out what you want to do in life, and work on it work on it, work on it, and never give up, and just continuously strive to better yourself,” Long said.

Rhames says Midlands Technical College has a strong relationship with the South Carolina National Guard, and hopes to produce more graduates who also serve down the road.

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