COS KALSU, Iraq - Prior to this year's Sha'baniyah pilgrimage, US and Iraqi intelligence Soldiers worked closely to ensure the Shi'a Islam festival was celebrated in peace.

Nearly 20 Iraqi Army intelligence leaders and Soldiers met with their counterparts from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division July 18, on Contingency Operating Station Kalsu.

The 8th Iraqi Army Division intelligence officer, Col. Khadim, and his 3rd HBCT counterpart, Maj. Charles Hiter, led the meeting, discussing current events in the area.

"These meetings have been beneficial because it allows both sides to form a more unified operational picture and identify potential enemy threats towards local nationals, (Iraqi Security Forces), (United States Forces), and the stability of Iraq," said Capt. Matthew Cooper, 3rd HBCT intelligence targeting officer.

The primary discussion was the Shi'a commemoration of Sha'baniyah. The birth of the 12th Imam is celebrated annually and is more commonly known as the Sha'baniyah festival. Although the festival is celebrated by Shi'a Muslims throughout the world, the holy city of Karbala serves as a central location for the festival, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims typically travel through several Iraqi provinces in order to visit Karbala.

Historically, there have been a few targets of opportunity during this pilgrimage for terrorists. The Iraqi Army and Police increase their presence to secure the pilgrims, but there is always a possibility for violence, so intelligence gathering and security planning are critical to mitigate attacks.

The Iraqis and U.S. Forces gathered around several maps to discuss the Sha'baniyah plans and marked the maps to indicate expected travel routes, security checkpoint locations, and potential high risk areas. These areas were closely monitored as part of the intelligence collection plan.

"The 8th IA leadership has done an excellent job in establishing the security plan for the celebration of the 12th Imam's birth, in both Babil and Karbala Provinces," said Capt. Les Stanfield, intelligence officer for the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd HBCT.

"We look forward to assisting them in any way we can," Stanfield added.

The 3rd HBCT intelligence section has been able to continue the development and professionalization of the Iraqi Army intelligence soldiers through meetings such as this, Hiter said.

"As an (advise and assist brigade) our primary function is to partner with our Iraqi Army counterparts in the 8th IA Division. This meeting is the one way that we not only partner but learn from each other the mission and culture," Hiter said.

"While most of our meetings are focused on targeting for arrest and prosecution, the meetings like this one, where we prepare for support to religious holidays or national elections, give our Soldiers the opportunity to see their impact on building the Iraqi Army and creating a secure and stable Iraq for the future."

<i>Capt. Joan Hollein is an intelligence officer with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.</i>

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16