The other day, I heard a Lieutenant from the new infantry battalion (1-182, Melrose) talk about a policy shift since they had relieved the old infantry battalion (1-181, Worcester).
"We're not giving anything out on the foot patrols. Period. No water, no candy, no snacks, no pens...nothing."
At first, I'll admit, I didn't *get* it. What could be so bad about soldiers smiling, waving, and giving some sweets out to the local kids in Ud Kheil (the neighborhood near Camp Phoenix), who are materially poor in a way that most Americans will never know?
As it turns out, lots.
Kids, I've learned through my experiences here, love to follow foot patrols around. That's generally all well and good, except when groups of slightly older kids (say, 12-15 years old) convince all the other kids to start throwing rocks at us. Given the restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROE), and the fact that all that's getting tossed are rocks, there isn't much we can do. Sometimes the rock-throwing is just the younger kids falling in line with the older kids, sometimes it's them expressing hatred, but other times it's just them expressing frustration with the fact that they're not getting something from the guys with the big green suits and the shades.
What the guys who do this every day tell know is this: Once you start doing something like candy giveaways, you create an expectation. Then, once that expectation isn't met, the next thing you'll see is hostility.
The biggest offenders are the "combat safari" types -- the JAGs, the docs, admin, logistics, and yes, even the intel weenies who finagle their way onto a foot patrol...they want to save the world by filling their pockets with sweets to hand out to the kids.
Which is all well and good until the NEXT time the ground-pounders go out. Now, if they don't have anything to give out, they get the rocks. And the rocks make it very hard for them to do their jobs, because the ROE says there's pretty much nothing you can do in return.
So that's why the policy is very cut-and-dry: NO giveaways to the kids. Humanitarian drops and civil affairs missions can be coordinated through local authorities, but no one is going to try and play savior to a bunch of extremely poor kids by emptying a pocket full of Jolly Ranchers.
Which sounds fair if you ask me.