A sniper must always have plenty of patience. The moment you meet Nick Gough, you have discovered the personification of cool, calm, and collected; soft spoken, a touch of sarcasm, but a pressure of intensity that looms over you – in a good way. We wish being an Oakley SI Ambassador was his claim to fame. Alas, he has a wealth of experience that makes us pale in comparison.
Nick served nearly eight years in the elite 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, with six of those years as a sniper. As a sniper section leader he graduated the US Army Sniper School and Special Operations Target Interdiction course with top honors. Nick has deployed 15 times to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile theaters with the 75th Ranger Regiment and as a Global Response Staff (GRS) Operator.
Childhood fantasies often become a reality for young men in the Military. Many young kids, myself included, grew up playing outside in full camouflage, painting my face in green, brown, and black face paint. Games such as ‘Manhunt’ or ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ were common activities in our neighborhood. Nick’s upbringing was very similar. Nick grew up in a small town of about 1200 people in the very Northeast corner of upstate New York. He was always outside, and always had a sense of adventure.
Early discovery of Ranger history, and his love for the outdoors inspired him to join. “A friend of mine had an older brother that deployed with 3/75 to Somalia and was a part of Task Force Ranger during the Battle of Mogadishu,” says Gough. “After he returned from that conflict, and hearing his stories, I was set on becoming a Ranger. I distinctly remember the moment I heard the story of Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a sniper.”
For those unfamiliar with the Battle of Mogadishu, it was a renowned event that displayed heroism on many fronts. During a 1993 humanitarian crisis in Somalia, Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and his comrade, Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, both snipers, gave their lives to defend a downed helicopter amidst enormous enemy combatants. For their actions, they were both posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Commonly known as ‘Black Hawk Down,’ the Battle of Mogadishu was the epitome of valor for the 75th Ranger Regiment, and Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (SFOD- D).
Gough enlisted and secured an Option 40 Ranger contract from his recruiter at a young age. The agreement lays out a training path for a young recruit to follow. Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training (AIT), Airborne School, and the grueling Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP). RIP is now called the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP). Pending successful completion of each stage, you are accepted into the 75th.
“Upon completing the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) I was assigned to 2nd Battalion in Fort Lewis, WA, where I spent the duration of my service,” says Gough. “After my first deployment, where I was a member of a machine gun team, I went to Ranger School.”
To earn a slot at Ranger School, the Army’s premier leadership school, a young Ranger must walk a fine line. Life in the 75th Ranger Regiment is not cozy. As a lower enlisted Ranger, every day is grueling. You are at the mercy of senior enlisted personnel and officers. You must prove your worth day in and day out. If your shoelace in untied, you do pushups. While reciting a stanza of the Ranger Creed, if you forget a word, you go hit the ropes. If you are late to formation, bear crawl on all fours back to the barracks. Attention to detail, care of equipment, and esprit de corps are everything.
“When I returned from Ranger School I volunteered for the sniper/reconnaissance selection process and was selected for the battalion sniper platoon,” says Gough. “I then deployed as a sniper to both Afghanistan and Iraq several more times until I completed my service contract.”
One aspect learned in the Ranger Regiment is teamwork. You are only as strong as the man to your right and left. There is no place for egos. “The biggest takeaway I have from my time in service is that with the right mindset, plan and motivation you can achieve your goal no matter the odds,” says Gough. “It taught me to put my ego aside. Being coachable is a requirement for success in whatever you do.”
After his contract expired, Gough moved into the role of instructor, entrepreneur, and product development. “I currently do research and product development for a large firearms manufacturer, and run a training facility in Texas,” says Gough. Additionally, Gough also owns and operates his company Dark Corner Concepts. “Fortunately, all of this mesh very well and I am able to use them all to benefit each other,” says Gough. “If not for the tools I learned in military, specifically planning and execution of a plan, I don’t feel I’d be able to successfully bring these together.”
Gough has also founded the Real World Sniper Challenge. The Real World Sniper Challenge is a multi day event held in Refugio, TX. Held at the world class facility Bridle Iron South, a 110,000 acre ranch uniquely situated at the crossroads of the south Texas brush country and the Texas Coastal Plains. Designed to honor the sniper craft and community in a series of mental and physical challenges under a variety of stressors. Tasks include land navigation, stalking, hide construction, target detection, K.I.M.S., range estimation, casualty care, and more. “Despite being a ton of work year round it’s always worth it and something I look forward to,” says Gough. “I’m excited with the trajectory of not only that event but the facility as well, and grateful I get to do this everyday.”