It seems that every time the United States faces a possible military conflict, I read about the appalling lack of career options for women in the military. The most recent was a column by Judy Mann {Metro, Aug. 22}. Women don't have the opportunity to fly fighter jets. They don't have the option to command ships. As a result of this discrimination they don't have the resume' for a lot of careers in the private sector.

When are we going to hear about women's responsibility for national defense? In every major conflict since the founding of this country, men have not had the "option" of serving in the military -- it has been compulsory. Many men did not choose to become soldiers, but they fought because it was their responsibility as young men to fight for the freedom of everyone.

It would be foolish to think that there could never be another draft. The next conscription, if it comes, will severely limit college deferments. Young men will have to postpone becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers. That will mean more opportunities for young women to win slots in medical schools, law schools and engineering schools. More women will be able to enter these careers than ever before -- and many young men won't be coming home.

When we speak of women we seem to talk about opportunities. But when we speak of men we talk about responsibility. If women want the same career options in the military as men, then maybe they should have the same responsibilities -- not the option of assuming the responsibility but the obligation of assuming it.

I don't see Pat Schroeder introducing legislation requiring women to register for the draft. If women want to be military pilots or even combat soldiers, then their sisters, daughters and classmates will have to take the same risk baby boys take -- that they may be called upon to die for their country, whether they want to or not.

-- Joseph Gallagher