Once again the issue of military compensation finds its way onto the front page {"Military's Compensation Far Exceeds Civil Servants,' " Nov. 14}.

A quoted GAO study says a 35-year-old man with a college education makes $65,671 in the military, $46,382 in the civil service.

Well, I am a 41-year-old male, with more than 20 years in the military and a college degree, and my total "package" of benefits, including medical, tax savings and savings for "estimated" items that I might have bought over the year in the military exchange -- everything -- totals just over $37,000.

I find it disgusting that every time a civilian study (GAO, Grace Commission, etc.) points out the benefits of military compensation, the figures usually cited begin with a colonel's pay.

I find it equally disgusting that every time the military representatives (civilian or officer) parade before congressional committees to seek a pay increase, they present the figures of the lowly enlisted person and how poorly his family fares. They then come back with a 2 percent raise that goes to everyone across the board.

Only about 17 percent of those who enter the military service ever collect any type of retirement. The average military retiree is a former enlisted person in the grade E-7, who leaves the service in his mid-forties after about 23 years of service. This enlisted retiree, on average, has four kids and receives about $860 a month in retirement.

As far as pay, there are enlisted service families that made less this year than the pay increase Congress recently granted itself.

Yes, there may be a pay gap when you compare a colonel with a GS-15. However, most military members are enlisted men and women, and if you think we are in this for the money, think again. Better yet, fork up the $83,000-plus that the GAO pay chart says I am making.

Yes, there are pay differences between civilians and members of the military, but there are bigger gaps between military officers' pay and enlisted pay. For example, an enlisted E-7 with more than 20 years' service is paid less than a captain with just three years' service. Let any civilian company have a pay structure along those lines, and it would find itself in court with a host of lawsuits. The next military pay structure overhaul should deal with officer-enlisted pay gaps.

One last question for the GAO: if it's so good in the military, why aren't more civilians joining up and making some of the really big bucks? The answer is that most military people are enlisted, and enlisted service members don't make very much! -- Wilford P. Boyd Jr.