COS GARRYOWEN, Iraq -During the pre-dawn hours recently, two platoons from 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completed their final rehearsals for a joint route clearance mission. They partnered with the 10th Iraqi Army Field Engineer Regiment stationed at Joint Security Station Sparrowhawk.

For 15 hours, these Soldiers conducted the aptly named "Operation Road Dog" with the objective of clearing and classifying a new route between Maysan and Dhi Qar provinces.

Since assuming the advise-and-assist mission in Maysan Province, Company E, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Regt. regularly conducts route clearance missions, enabling U.S. forces to safely move along roads throughout the province, said 1st. Lt. Ryan Snedegar, a platoon leader with Co. E and native of Charleston, W.V. The objective of Operation Road Dog includes assessing the quality of road to determine suitability for military traffic.

The mission has implications far beyond the military, said Lt. Col. Trent Hunton, the operations officer of 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. The new route will facilitate civilian traffic between the two provinces, enabling the flow of goods and increasing the economic vitality of southern Iraq.

The Soldiers of the Scout Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Regt., are specifically trained to conduct these tasks, said 1st Lt. Matthew Strohman, the platoon leader from Cincinnati.

During the mission, Strohman's Soldiers measure and record data, such as the width of the road, the lengths of bridges, water depths, and flow rates, all hand-in-hand with their Iraqi Army engineer counterparts. The collected data will assist Soldiers in classifying the route and assessing how it can be used in the future by both military and Iraqi vehicles, Strohman said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces also identify areas that could be used to emplace improvised explosive devices or other threats, increasing the route's safety.

San Antonio native, Capt. Daaron Spears, Co. E's commander, said equally significant to the collection of data are the efforts of the Iraqi engineers in assisting with security and interaction with the citizens. Gaining an understanding of the people along the route plays an important role in mitigating future security risks, he said.

One of the key impacts of the partnership between the U.S. platoons and the 10th IA FER is the display of unity to the local population. The FER's ability to ensure a peaceful mission allowing U.S. forces to gain information is good for the people to see, said 2nd Lt. Wsam, an officer with the 10th IA, FER.

The results of Operation Road Dog will directly affect the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq, Spears said. As more equipment continues to funnel out of the country, the demand for safe, passable routes will grow.

According to Warrant Officer Salin, assigned to 10th IA FER, the engineers assisted in clearing approximately 90 kilometers of two-lane highway and multiple bridges. They also identified additional egresses and parallel routes.

He said he was pleased with the cooperation of U.S. forces, and he was proud to offer his unit's skills to help create a safer route.