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Thursday, May 30, 2019

With Fearlessness And A 'Code Name,' Iraqi Helped Navy SEALs

For years, Johnny Walker interpreted for the U.S. Navy SEALs on missions all over his home country of Iraq. He served on over a thousand missions, and stood out as an invaluable part of nearly every team he worked with.
No, Johnny Walker isn't his real name. The SEALs gave him the nickname in honor of his love of Johnnie Walker Whisky — and to protect his identity, a necessary precaution even today.
"Bad guys, if they hear your real name, they can find you," he tells NPR's Arun Rath.
But before the war, the special ops missions and the American pseudonym, Walker was just a normal guy living in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
He was picking up part-time work as a truck driver when the U.S. Army came to his country. In the new occupying forces, Walker saw an opportunity for a job and a steady paycheck for his family.
"Everyone loved to work with Americans because it's good money," he says. "You would be so proud — 'Oh, guys, I work with Americans.' ... This is in the beginning, in 2003."
For weeks, Walker went from military base to military base, looking for a job. He finally got lucky and picked up work with the military police, quickly making a name for himself as a capable interpreter. It wasn't long before an elite unit of Navy SEALs hired him on.
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