Judy Mann's column "Women in Combat" {Metro, Aug. 22} is right on target. The laws and policies that bar women from certain military assignments are vestiges of another time and no longer serve any useful purpose. Contrary to popular mythology, they do not protect women from the risks of war. As our recent experience in Panama clearly demonstrated, in modern warfare geography and technology, not policies or good intentions, dictate who will be in combat.

The issue of women in combat should not be viewed as a question of women's equity, as is often the case. It is a question of the rights and responsibilities that go with the oath of service: Can we expect men to be exposed to the risks inherent in military service and expect less of the professional military women who take the same oath, wear the same uniform, have the same training, receive the same pay and benefits and aspire to the same promotions?

It is also a personnel management question: How can the armed forces efficiently manage their human resources in wartime when they are hamstrung by cumbersome assignment systems that treat people as two separate categories based on outmoded sex stereotypes and misplaced notions of chivalry? JEANNE M. HOLM Edgewater, Md.

The writer is a retired Air Force major general.