For the world's Muslim population, which is estimated at more than 1.5 billion as of October 2009, Ramadan is one of the most celebrated times of year.

United States Division-South expressed their respects to the Islam community in their area of operations and to the holy month by hosting an Iftar celebration on Contingency Operating Base Basra Aug. 28.

The event, which is the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan, was attended by senior leaders of the 1st Infantry Division, which is currently in operational control of USD-S, community and business leaders from around Basra, and even Christian clergymen.

Mililani, Hawaii, native Lt. Col. Mark Olds, USD-S deputy civil affairs officer who planned the event, said -it was more than just symbolic.

"U.S. forces (demonstrated) their understanding and respect of Muslim traditions and practices by hosting an Iftar dinner for our Iraqi partners and friends during the Ramadan observance," Olds said. "The intended outcome is to sustain the strength of the partnership and foster continued mutual respect for each other's traditions, customs and practices."

Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of the 1st Inf. Div. and USD-S, expressed his gratitude to those in attendance for coming before dining on the buffet traditional Ramadan cuisine that included sheep, lamb and fish. "We have invited you because you are friends of the United States Division-South and because of your importance on things you are doing for Basra and for Iraq," Brooks said. "We are very grateful that you accepted our invitation to join us tonight. God willing, this will be a time of fellowship and friendship tonight."

Olds said the event bore special meaning for him outsides of the operational benefits of hosting it.

"(This is) very special; I don't see myself having this opportunity again," Olds said. "The camaraderie with our Iraqi guests is the most special part of the Iftar; it means walking out of the Iftar with a mutual respect for each other's cultures, customs and traditions and a lasting friendship."

Ramadan will end at sunset on Sept., 10 and Eed Al Fitr will begin the next sunrise when Muslims will visit their relatives, neighbors and graves of the deceased.