Oct. 23rd: 0800 hours
"Lieutenant, the colonel wants to see you right away." The company clerk reported to the nurse who was busily scrubbing the walls of the operating room.
"OK, Corporal Klinger. Thanks." Lieutenant MacAllister climbed down from the step ladder. She set her bucket and brush on the floor and removed her surgical apron.
The Texan knocked at the commander's door and entered. "You wanted to see me, sir?" She questioned. Noticing another officer present, she came to attention.
Colonel Potter made the introductions. "Colonel Blankenship, this is Lieutenant MacAllister, the acting-head nurse while Major Houlihan is attending the Tokyo conference. Lieutenant, this is Colonel Blankenship, a member of the Army Medical Supervisory Board. The colonel is here for a surprise inspection of the nursing staff." Potter explained. He was watching for MacAllister's reaction.
The redheaded nurse smiled at the older woman. "A surprise inspection. How wonderful."
Potter, having been around her long enough to recognize the irony in her voice, smiled to himself.
"Where would you like to start, ma'am?" The lieutenant asked with formal politeness. "Pre-op, post-op or the medical supply room?"
"Actually, Lieutenant, I want to start with the nurse's quarters." Blankenship informed her. "Have all of your nurses assemble for inspection, immediately."
MacAllister frowned slightly. "Ma'am, right now, my nurses are involved in OR break down. I can provide a representative from each tent to stand for inspection, but I can not send all of the nurses to assembly."
"Perhaps you didn't understand me, Lieutenant." The female officer spoke in a cold tone. "That was an order."
"With all due respect, ma'am," the M*A*S*H nurse replied levelly, "I simply can not spare more than two nurses. Once the operating room clean up is completed, I will have a full staff review for you. In the meantime, the representatives and I will inform the others of everything you inspect."
"Colonel," Potter intervened, "around here, OR preparation must have top priority."
"Very well." She replied. "This will be mentioned in my report, however."
"If y'all will excuse me, I'll send for the tent representatives." MacAllister nodded to both colonels and left the office.
"This is the living quarters for Lieutenants Campbell, Smith, Tanakhamara and Thompson." Sarabeth MacAllister, with clipboard and pen in hand, announced. She and Lieutenants Kellye and Hernandez followed the colonel into the tent.
The older woman looked around in contempt. "This is no better than a pigsty! Beds are unmade. Personal belongings are on display. I want these women written up."
Sarabeth nodded and made notations on her paper. "Would you care to visit the post-op, now, Colonel? Of all the M*A*S*H units, we have the highest survival rate percentage. Part of that record is due to our recovery facilities."
"I want to see the next tent, Lieutenant."
"Yes, ma'am. Right this way." MacAllister, with her mild Texas drawl, replied.
The other nurses rolled their eyes at each other behind the visiting officer's back.
"...That picture is disgraceful!" Blankenship was scandalized. "He's not wearing anything except his dog tags and his helmet!"
"At least he's holding his helmet in a strategic place." Lieutenant MacAllister commented. The corner of her mouth was beginning to quiver.
"I want that picture taken down and destroyed immediately!"
Lieutenant Hernandez protested. "That's Baker's husband, ma'am. We can't destroy it!"
"Then turn it over." Blankenship ordered.
Hernandez started to speak but MacAllister interrupted her. "You heard the colonel." She was trying to maintain a deadpan expression. "Turn the picture over and show Colonel Blankenship what's on the other side."
The nurse did as she was instructed.
The colonel left the tent quickly.
In the picture on the other side, Baker's Marine husband was not wearing his helmet.
Oct. 23rd: 1300 hours
Sarabeth was sitting in her quarters. At her table, with her feet resting on a stool, she was reading the schedule Colonel Blankenship had given her. "Definitely a few fish shy of a stringer." She muttered to herself in dismay. Hearing a man's footsteps approaching her tent, she looked up to see B J Hunnicutt peering through her door screen.
"You have your 'do not disturb' sign out on your door, Sarabeth, but may I come in anyway?"
"Sure, B J. Come on in." MacAllister set aside her work and gestured for him to have a seat.
"Charles asked me to deliver these to you." He gave her a handful of small rocks. "He said that you would want them."
Sarabeth laughed and placed the stones on her table. "He is so right!"
B J asked, curiously, "What's the joke?"
"Charles knows that I like to chunk rocks whenever I get mad." She answered with a grin. "For some reason, he must feel that I've had cause to become angry this morning."
"I wonder why he would think that?" He grinned back at her.
"I haven't the foggiest. It sure couldn't have anything to do with being lambasted for having a Texas flag hanging in my quarters." MacAllister replied with humor.
"Or with having to stand at parade attention while the entire nursing staff was being soundly chastised?" Hunnicutt added with more seriousness.
"That's why my nurses have the afternoon off. Between me working their tails off; and Colonel Blankenship chewing their tails off; they needed a break."
"They needed one...what about you?" He asked as he looked at the folder on her table.
She grinned. "The colonel gave me a schedule that she wants me to implement. It's a wonderful one: surgical nurses working only in the OR, triage nurses working triage only, post-op working only in post-op, etc. The only problem is...I don't have the 25 to 30 nurses that it would take to make it work. I suspect, however, you aren't here to listen to me complain about colonels. What can I do for you, sir?"
"Sarabeth, I want to talk to you about your ankle." At MacAllister's downcast look, Hunnicutt nodded in agreement. "I'm sorry, but I can't certify you as 100% fit for duty."
"Please don't look so sad, sir. I'm the one who has had to walk on this ankle. I was hoping, but I knew it wasn't going to be ready in three weeks."
"The tribunal's recommendation is that you be allowed to stay here...despite that ankle. The consensus is that you are too good a surgical nurse to be shipped out. We need you...the wounded need you."
"I want to stay here, sir. I don't reckon I have much say in the matter, though."
"We haven't given up the fight, yet. Sarabeth, you deserve a break. Come over to the Officer's Club with me, Hawkeye and Charles. We'll buy you a drink." He offered.
"Oh, I'm sorely tempted." She answered with a laugh. "I can't, however. The colonel wants to go over this innovative schedule of hers at 1400 hours."
Unexpectedly, the color drained from her face. MacAllister shivered. "Y'all better forget about those drinks, B J." She informed him somberly.
"Wounded coming in?"
The nurse nodded. "In two to three hours. It's going to be a long session."
Captain Hunnicutt pulled himself out of his chair. "I wish just once they would run out of bullets before they ran out of bodies." He helped the woman to stand.
"I wanted to get out of the meeting with Colonel Blankenship, but not this way." The lieutenant sighed. "I better go tell Colonel Potter we've got company coming."
"...Since we're expecting heavy casualties soon, some adjustments to the posted schedules are required." Lieutenant MacAllister was briefing the camp personnel. "Triage, pre-op and surgical nurse assignments will be the same. The changes will deal with the staffing of post-op wards...."
"...All personnel who are on standby reassignment, keep track of how many patients are leaving the OR. As soon as I have to open a new ward, I want everyone ready to switch."
"Any questions on assignments?" The lieutenant paused and looked at the members of the medical outfit. "Sounds like we're going to be playing musical scalpels, doesn't it? This is going to be rough on everyone. However," she smiled at them in encouragement, "one of the reasons this M*A*S*H unit has a 98% survival rate is because y'all have always pulled together and worked as a team when the patients need you. I'm proud to be a part of the 4077th. And I'm very proud of y'all!" She told them with honest sincerity.
"That's all that I have for y'all as a group. Corporal Klinger has some additional assignments for the gentlemen. Ladies, I have some assignments for us, as well." Sarabeth grinned at them. "So much for our afternoon off."