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ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Navy plans to promote 16 SEALs to lieutenant commander, marking the first time the Navy has given spot promotions to sailors in special warfare in the Navy’s history, the Navy has announced.

Traditionally, SEAL lieutenants have been team leaders, but in the global war on terrorism, they have had to go above and beyond their normal responsibilities to work with senior U.S. and coalition officers, said Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a spokesman for Navy Special Warfare Command.

Given these new responsibilities, the command asked the chief of naval personnel to allow it to promote SEALs in the field to rank that reflects all they do, Geisen said.

“It is critically important that our SEALs, who are making enormous contributions to the global war on terrorism, are afforded the rank commensurate with leadership responsibilities they are being entrusted with their battlefield commanders, said Rear Adm. Joseph Maguire, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, in the news release.

Since 2003, the Defense Department has increased SEAL officer authorizations by more than 60 percent with the largest increase in lieutenant commander positions, the news release says.

The overall SEALs community is slated to increase by 500 by 2010, said Capt. MaryBeth Newton, director of personnel for Naval Special Warfare Command.

“It’s no accident that our best and brightest who have been chosen for these promotions are also the ones who are right now operationally in the thick of what they do,” Newton said in the news release.

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