By Sgt. Michael Moody
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Shi’a pilgrims traveled more than 620 miles round trip, from Najaf to Samarra, north of Baghdad, in order to attend a religious observance, July 6.
Iraqi Army soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 37th Brigade of the 9th Iraqi Army Division and the 4th Battalion, 17th Brigade, 4th IA Div., closed portions of the Baghdad-Mosul highway as more than 3,000 devoted Shi’a Muslims crossed four governates on their way to Samarra. The recent gains in security and stability enjoyed by Iraqi citizens were demonstrated as the convoy traveled the approximately 300 miles each way without incident.
The IA soldiers took on the responsibility to ensure the safety of all the pilgrims. Coalition forces did not participate in securing the convoy, but stood ready in case the IA soldiers needed assistance.
“We have reached a point where Iraqi security forces are in the lead. This effort was planned, resourced and executed flawlessly by their hands,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Boccardi, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., and battalion commander, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
This was the second tip this year for pilgrims, and the second time this year they traveled safely under the security of the IA.
“For the second time now we have realized that reconciliation has taken root deeper than we have given it credit for,” said Capt. Calvin Kline, a native of Cincinnati and effects officer, 1st Bn. 14th Inf. Regt.
In January of this year, during the 10-day observance of Ashura, Shi’a pilgrims walked without incident down the length of the Baghdad-Mosul highway on their way to Najaf and Karbala.
This recent pilgrimage from Najaf to Samarra commemorated the martyrdom of the two al Askari Imams.
Pilgrims traveled courtesy of al Najaf al Ashraf Establishment, an organization committed to providing free transportation to these events.
Upon arriving to Samarra, the pilgrims made their way to the graves of the al Askari Imams where they read the Quran, prayed and worshiped. After their religious observances, the pilgrims boarded the busses and traveled back to Najaf.