Severna Park resident Nick Pence always wanted to go into the military, and after the 9/11 attack on the United States, he was convinced he wanted to defend the nation against terrorism.
“I had graduated from Michigan State University and applied to law school, but I always wanted to go in the military,” Pence said. “Then I saw the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ and then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Pence enlisted in the Army and went through basic training at Fort Benning (now Fort Moore). He was selected for ranger indoctrination training and was eventually chosen for the Army Special Operations Command with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“The ranger training was extremely intense and challenging as we were preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan to capture terrorists who were threatening our freedom,” Pence said.
Pence became a ranger team and squad leader whose mission was to capture terrorists who were hiding in remote sections of those countries and turn them over to the CIA and FBI.
“Ninety-nine percent of our raids were at night,” Pence said. “Using special equipment, highly-skilled soldiers and using the darkness gave us a competitive advantage.”
Most of the raids used multiple helicopters to transport the team of about 30 soldiers to the sites where terrorists were hiding.
“I remember the very first mission I was on in the Middle East, the helicopter I was in began taking enemy fire,” Pence said. “I was scared, but I had to focus on the mission.”
Pence led raids almost every night during his multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“More often than not, we faced resistance from the enemy and had hostile gunfights,” Pence said.
Pence recalled two of the most terrifying missions that he had during his three years fighting for the United States. The first one was when the enemy placed two tank land mines in the road that blew up the vehicle Pence was riding in. Luckily, Pence had the roof opened over his head and he was thrown through that opening and suffered numerous wounds.
“My team members who were in other vehicles said that this 26-ton armored vehicle was actually lifted off of the ground by the explosives,” Pence said. “It was sheer luck the roof was opened and I wasn’t killed.”
The other mission that stands out for Pence was when he and his team were outnumbered on a rooftop in Afghanistan and they were taking on enemy fire.
“It was like the scene in the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’ where bullets were going under and over your arms, over your head and next to your feet, but you’re shocked you didn’t get hit,” Pence said.
Pence credited his ranger and special operations training for getting him through the four deployments in the Middle East.
“We were so well trained that we never feared we would lose those skirmishes,” Pence said.
For his courage and bravery, Pence has been awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Medal for valor.
Pence continued his military career when he returned to America by joining the Army National Guard. First Sergeant Pence is still in the National Guard and provides specialized training throughout the year.
Pence has also transitioned to being Under Armour’s senior director of product supply services at the company’s Baltimore headquarters.
“With my military and business background, I’m able to speak to companies all over the world on their textile needs as well as footwear and accessories,” Pence said. “I have 40 people in my division across the globe and I travel to numerous international and national cities to represent Under Armour’s product lines.”
Under Armour’s senior vice president of innovation, Kyle Blakely, is impressed by Pence.
“It takes a special kind of drive and tenacity to continue serving our nation while leading product supply services for a global brand,” Blakely said. “I’ve had the privilege of working side by side with Nick for nearly a decade and continue to be in awe of his presence, sacrifice, and humility as an extraordinary veteran and teammate.”
Pence is also involved in the Severna Park community as he coaches soccer with the Green Hornets and is active at St. John the Evangelist School, where his daughters McCall and Brooks attend.
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