Impressions of the New C.O.

All the members of the 4077th were glad that Henry was given the chance to go home, but they also were very sad. They were losing a good friend. Their sadness turned into horror and mourning when they got the information that Henry had been killed.

When Frank Burns took over command, life became unbearable and most personnel complained about Burns to Hawkeye. But there was nothing they could do. Additionally, they still only had three surgeons (if one could count Burns). After thinking for a while about their situation, they had an idea. Burns and Houlihan had passed over Henry many times. So why can't Hawkeye do the same? He managed it so that headquarters heard about the problems and incompetence of Major Frank Burns.

Two months later he was not so sure anymore if they would have success with this procedure because there was nothing that indicated a change of command. Then one day Radar came to the Swamp and told B.J. and Hawkeye that they will be getting a new commander very soon. First they felt relief but then they heard that their new commander, a Colonel Sherman Potter, was a Regular Army guy. This could make life worse than it was now. Time would tell... Their expectations seemed to come true when they had their first meeting with Colonel Potter.

Radar was the first who had contact with their new commanding officer. It was really embarrassing for him. He was sunning himself in front of the C.O.'s office when he heard a jeep arriving. He didn't pay attention to the arrival because he thought it wasn't that late. So he ignored the horn, but he or she was persistently pushing it. "Stick that horn in your ear" was finally his response and he thought that for now it was over. The reply was a shock for the company clerk. With an icy undertone an unknown voice said, "On your feet soldier, I'm Colonel Potter." Radar jumped on his feet and stuttered an apology. Colonel Potter was a stern looking, rather small man with white hair. Radar estimated his age at about 55 (he would have a look into the personnel file afterwards). The clerk thought of Potter as a tough army guy and expected the worst.

But while helping decorate the office, he was not so sure about it anymore. After a few days he got to know him a little bit better and he decided his first impression was wrong. Potter was actually very sensible and human, even if he has some peculiarities (thinking of the useless saddle). However, he felt sympathy for him. Sure, he couldn't do things the same way as he did with Lt. Col. Blake. But in the whole world there won't be another Henry Blake. He still missed him. Radar was fond of animals so it wasn't surprising when he (with the help of B.J. and Hawkeye) rescued a wounded horse. When he found out that the C.O. had an anniversary he made the horse a present for him. It was a very touching moment when the old cavalryman got sight of the horse. Potter was overwhelmed and from that moment on Radar and his C.O. had a strong relationship.

Maxwell Klinger has been trying hard to get a Section 8 discharge ever since he has been in the army. He had had no luck with the old commander, so as soon as possible he tried it with the new Colonel. Radar told him that Colonel Sherman Potter was not a man you can play such games with. Klinger ignored that hint and tried it anyway. He walked into the C.O.'s office and told the new commander why he was nuts and that he should get a Section 8.

The colonel looked up at his guest and waited until the hairy guy in the yellow dress had finished his monologue. As Klinger listened to the response he knew that with this officer it would be even harder to get out of the army. He tried to argue, but this small man on the other side of the desk had more authority than most of the people he ever met. He was ordered to get out of his fru-fru and into his uniform. He tried to argue again, but he was sent out. Klinger was intimidated so much that he followed this order immediately. All the other people in the camp started wondering why Klinger wore his uniform. He explained them the reason, which didn't improve the popularity of the new commander at all. Even worse, he developed some kind of rash. Hawkeye, this really wonderful guy, had a conversation with the Colonel and eventually Klinger was allowed to wear his special outfit again. Klinger got the opinion that this man wasn't that bad. There were more reasons to like Potter than to dislike him. For instance he has a fine kind of humor and no matter what trouble one got into, you could always get comfort and advice from him. However, it was a question of honor that Klinger would continue to try for a Section 8, no matter how nice a superior could be.

Hawkeye was glad Frank was out as commander, but the information that the new C.O. was Regular Army upset him a little bit. He didn't like the army at all, and so he had some fears of how things would develop with a career man. As far as he knew, army doctors didn't care much about their patients. Hawkeye hates to have kids on the operating table, but he does the best he can to save their lives. He saw himself as a doctor, so he had a disturbed relationship with military discipline. In these days when no one knew how the new commander would behave, Hawkeye and many others thought a lot about Henry Blake. The night they got the terrible message he got drunk like never before. But that didn't make the pain go away. He gazed at a picture of his friend. Henry treated people like human beings; he knew that they were drafted. The green clothes didn't make Hawkeye an officer. He does his job, nothing more and nothing less. The first meeting with Colonel Potter turned out to be as expected. Frank Burns had put some nice things into Hawkeye and B.J.'s file, so Potter was not pleased with the information about them. Hawkeye's fears seemed to come true. It confused him that Radar didn't have a bad opinion of the Colonel. The clerk was innocent like a child, so Hawkeye cared a lot about his opinion. When the new commander of the 4077th went to the O.R. for the first time, Hawkeye was suspicious enough to tell Margaret that she should assist or, better yet, monitor Potter at work. Hawkeye was surprised when he saw how much the Colonel cared about the soldiers. He didn't know what to think. His prejudices didn't fit with reality. After the 24 hour stint in the O.R. they got rid of their surgical gowns and Potter told them that he had not been sure about his surgical qualities, but that O.R. shift proved he still has the skills. For the first time Hawkeye saw his superior laughing. He had a kind expression on his face that reminded Hawkeye of his father.

When Potter suggested having some drinks the ice was broken. They settled down in the Swamp and served their horrible martinis. Potter even told them how to get better a yield and quality out of their still. It didn't take long before they got drunk. They shared a lot of stories, and the Colonel told them that he got his Purple Heart because his still on Guam blew up in WWII. So Potter turned out to be a splendid fellow, and Hawkeye had to admit that a Regular Army man wasn't necessarily a bad guy. 

B.J. had no prejudices like Hawkeye, but he was not thrilled that they got a Regular Army commander either. It was the Army that drafted and sent him to Korea, far away from his family. If some crazy people like wearing green clothes and prefer to spend their time far away from home, then they should do it. B.J. made the assumption that Potter would fall into this category. Their first meeting in the C.O.'s office seemed to confirm his suspicions.

At his first session in the O.R. Beej had some problems with a patient and Potter was there to help him. With a calm and clear voice he told Hunnicutt what to do, and in these seconds everybody saw that contrary to their fears about army doctors, Colonel Potter did care very much about people. The first session lasted about 24 hours and they saved all but 'only' one soldier. The only injured man they lost was not even nineteen, and he had no chance. His wounds had been too severe; he died despite Hawkeye's efforts to save him. Beej saw the sorrow in Hawk's eyes, and he also felt very bad and helpless, fighting against tears. He glanced at Potter, and he saw that he was also affected. Their new C.O. gazed for a few moments at the table with the dead body. After their day long stint they got drunk together, and Hunnicutt got to know the person behind the regular army man. Next day Beej met Potter in the mess tent where they were having some coffee. Beej told him about his family and how much he missed them. Potter also missed his family a lot and so they shared stories about the people they love. Since last night when they got drunk in the Swamp, Beej had had a different view of their superior. And now, with this conversation the sympathy grew even more. After Beej asked how Potter felt when the young soldier died in the O.R. yesterday, Potter admitted that he was very concerned. He never got used to seeing a young man dying. Beej thought of Potter as a man who combines the allegedly conflicting abilities of a Regular Army commander, a good surgeon and a decent man.

Father Mulcahy was an optimist anyway; he was used to dealing with every kind of people. After all the things that he had gotten to know about their new commander, he expected he would be busy intervening between the staff and the new C.O. Sadly he thought about Henry Blake. He had always accepted that the Lord moves mysterious ways, but in this case it was very hard to swallow the bitterness. A philosopher once said that nothing happens without a reason - Mulcahy couldn't see any reason here. He held a memorial service and it was the first time that the mess tent was too small for a service...
He heard that the new C.O. had just arrived and, as usual he wanted to see his personnel, especially the officers. Well, Mulcahy had to admit that Potter was very different from Blake, but he wasn't unpleasant. He seemed to be a religious man because he asked for a Methodist service. However, things didn't look very good for Hawkeye and B.J.

After several days when the Colonel was sitting alone in the mess tent and having coffee, Mulcahy joined him. Their conversation began like all conversations between strangers begin, talking about the weather, the quality of the food (or better the lack of it), finally where they come from, etc. Potter turned out to be a family man, despite his profession which keeps him away from home. Above all that, the Colonel worried very much about the wounded people. Potter confessed that the suffering and pain he had seen in World War I was one reason that he became a doctor. If he saw an ill, sick or wounded human being he would be able to help. Above all it seems their new C.O. was a humorous guy. The people at the other tables looked puzzled at both officers when they were obviously having fun - how could anybody have fun with a career man?
After a few days it was clear that Colonel Potter wasn't that bad; on the contrary he was actually likable. Father Mulcahy was sure things would work out fine. Before he went to bed he thanked God that he had sent them a good man, and like every evening he prayed for a swift ending of this war. Even if the chaplain doubted it sometimes, the Lord may have a reason for all this.

Margaret Houlihan was very upset when she heard they were getting a new commander. She would never admit it, but it was she who was in command - until now. 'Behind every great man (Frank Burns?) is a great woman,' she thought. So she had mixed emotions about what was to come. The new C.O. was Regular Army, so things would be different for sure. Having been in the Army for a long time she liked discipline, so maybe this Colonel Potter will teach the rest of the camp what the word discipline means. In the first meeting Potter appeared to be a strict person who didn't tolerate any opposition.

That was okay for her, but she was concerned when she heard their new C.O. had not been in O.R. for two years. It was a rare occasion when she agreed with to Hawkeye that she should assist Potter and observe his work. The Colonel seemed to be a little bit nervous, but he did surgery as if he had not been away from it for such a long time. When he helped B.J. Hunnicutt on a patient she was sure this guy was no risk in the O.R., something one couldn't say about Major Burns. Soon she had a conversation with Potter about the nurses, how she had organized their work and other stuff like that. He was interested in all these things, and he had a good understanding of the problems and needs of the personnel. During their discussion they drifted away from the official subject. He was an uncomplicated person with some peculiarities, but who has doesn't have some peculiarities? But there was also some kind of disappointment. Potter got along fine with Pierce and Hunnicutt and, oddly enough, he permitted Klinger to continue wearing his dresses. Sometimes she was not sure who was right and who was wrong.

Frank Burns's dream had become true. He was the commander of the 4077th. The fact people didn't like him was normal. He had never had real friends, neither in school nor in business. His wife Louise had the same problems, so it was natural that they had gotten married. However, he was full of hope this war wouldn't end soon because he enjoyed being in command so much. He would show Pierce, Hunnicutt and the whole staff what army life and discipline was all about.

One day he was waiting for O'Reilly to deliver the mail. He didn't expect anything spectacular so the surprise was even bigger when it came. The Army in its infinite wisdom would be sending a new commander. Colonel Sherman Potter, Regular Army from the medical corps would be replacing him. He hid his shock until he was alone with Margaret. Then he lost his composure. He was so angry that he packed his bag and ran away. Not for a minute did he think that he was now AWOL. He got lost in the woods and was chased by a dog. Finally he got hungry so he desperately tried to find his way back to the camp. Somehow he made it back and Margaret assured him that the new C.O. didn't miss him (time would tell that Potter would never miss him). One day later he reported to the Colonel as all the other officers had done. The other two surgeons were also in the office, and by the way they looked at each other Frank could tell that he wouldn't like what was about to come. Potter seemed to be a man with a clear sense for discipline, but for Frank's taste he was too nice and polite to everyone. Even worse, some people already seemed to like him. Then Klinger showed up in a dress and Potter didn't care about that; on the contrary he was especially friendly to the Corporal. That was too much for him. He rushed into Margaret's tent to complain about the injustice of life. But Margaret also seemed to be fond of Potter, so he went to the officers' club and got drunk. 'It is my destiny to be a loser,' he thought, but he was used to it.

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