There’s a lot wrong with our military, but there’s sure nothing wrong with the folks who thrust the bayonets, maintain and fly the aircraft, sail the ships and bring up the rear cooking the beans, moving the bullets and sorting the mail.

They, the ones defending you and me as we sip Starbucks coffee and enjoy our wildly booming economy, are the best I’ve ever seen.

The warriors — squatting in foxholes facing killers in South Korea, Kuwait and Bosnia; drilling holes in the sky over Iraq and Saudi; crammed aboard amphibious ships from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli; and slipping down jungle trails in Columbia and Cambodia — are America’s finest.

They are a lot smarter and better selected and trained than I was two score and 12 years ago. Their sergeants and chiefs and captains and commanders are a lot sharper too — better trained and more professional than even the fine men who taught me the soldiering trade.

If you have any question about just how good these frequently maligned Generation Xers are, take a quick look at their track records in such hot spots as Panama, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia.

The Spartans from ancient Greece and the 1940 German Army — two of the finest military forces ever to swing a sword or parry a bayonet — would take their steel hats off to these well-executed operations and along the way salute our present-day warriors as their fighting equals.

Last week, I spent a day with six former U.S. Army Rangers — Clay Othic, Dave Floyd, Mike Kurth, Todd Blackburn, Mike Goodule, and Ken Thomas. All had fought in one of the most valiant fights in our country’s history.

They were with the Ranger Task Force in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. Task Force Ranger — Fort Benning’s 375th Ranger, Fort Bragg’s Delta Force and Fort Campbell’s 160th Aviation Regiment — was outnumbered 10 to 1 against a well-armed, well-led, worthy opponent.

Though surrounded and pinned down for a very long day and an even longer night, they gave no quarter and made their fanatic, gutsy foe pay a stiff price.

Even though they were low on ammo, water, food, and medical supplies and most were bleeding, none ever thought of waving the white flag. They knew they’d make it because they belonged to the sacred brotherhood of men of arms who never let one another down.

They hung in there like their granddads did on the beaches of Saipan and the foxholes of the Hurtgen Forest, the hill tops of Chipyongni and icy passes of the Chosin Reservoir; and as their dads did at Hue, Dak To and the Mekong Delta.

These six young men and those who slugged it out with them were made of that same stern, gritty stuff as their forefathers who hacked their way from Virginia to California and who’ve defended us so well in all our nation’s battles.

They proudly flew the same standard too: country, duty, honor and high physical and moral courage.

All six were patriots who joined up to serve their country. But at the end of the day, they said they fought that hard fight not just for the Red, White and Blue, but for the same reason that was the bottom-line motivation for their granddads and dads: each other.

They just didn’t want to let each other down. And believe me, the individual acts of heroism out of Mogadishu make the movie “Braveheart” seem like a nursery tale.

I was humbled and inspired by these brave men. I walked away from the interview with my hope for America recharged.

Like you, I get down when I see the sleaze that daily oozes out of the White House and the special prosecutor’s office, and that bubbles out of the television tube along with tales about 11-year-olds with guns murdering other kids.

But a day with these lads made all that pain go away. As long as we have these kind of young folks — and there are tens of thousands of them out there — we’ll make it through the night. Their extraordinary story will air on Fox TV, May 7. See it and get inspired too.

Hack Notes

Man, oh man, do the weeks fly by …

Seems like I just wrote HACK NOTES, and here they are again.

Doing two columns a week is like sleeping with twin nymphomaniacs: when you get done with one, you’ve got to deal with the other.

Normally, the hardest part about writing a column is the “What the hell am I going to say” bit and doing the research.

The writing and rewriting part is actually the easy, fun part.

At least with C and C (Clinton and Cohen) in the saddle, riding from one disaster to the next, there are no shortages of defense horror stories to report.

My job is also made easier because of the yards of material I get personally from the troops from around the world — from 200 to 500 messages a day. Also, my assistant Rhonda gets several hundred e-mails herself.

Stories like the Army colonel in Europe who spent ten grand on a fancy conference table, but zilch on the broken troop latrines and the unheated guard house. (Incidentally, I got similar messages from Navy and Air Force troops the same week. None from Marines. Different style leaders or not a dime to waste?)

When are the high brass going to clean up their act?

When are they going to realize in our brave new world of the Internet, that their serving themselves instead of their troops hits page one before their crooked/selfish/abusive (pick one or all of the above) misdeed is a few hours old.

What’s needed is just old fashioned, set-the-example leadership. But I guess they don’t teach stuff like eat-last-and-be-up-first at the fancy flag officer charm schools and high level management courses. Sad that with all the master degree programs that teach everything but the right kind of leadership, we have ended up with the best educated senior officers in the world and the most basic leadership problems.

But on another front: Roger Charles, who ramrods SFTT as Chief of Staff, is shaping that outfit up as he did the Marine outfits he skippered during his 20-plus years in the Corps.

I thank him for his dedication and volunteering his time and talent. What a good man. He lives by JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

And I want to thank those of you who volunteer your time and give your money to make things right for the damn good men and women that are so admirably serving our country in the active and reserve ranks.

If all 12,000 NEWSLETTER subscribers just follow Roger’s fine example we’d be in great shape. If all of you just sent 12 bucks a year, SFTT would have the dough to set up an office and hire the help he needs so badly.

Bitching won’t change things. Throwing sponges at the rats who buy the desks and abuse the troops and do the pork dance won’t change this sleazoid drill.

Only getting out the truth will. Cockroaches can’t stand the light, nor can the rats that are selling out our troops.

So get active.

Keep Five.

— Hack

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