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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy plans to increase the number of sailors in Iraq from about 4,000 to more than 5,000 over the next year, said Lt. Trey Brown, a Navy spokesman.

“As the role of the military slowly shifts, and noncombat theater stability and reconstruction operations increase, more opportunities arise for the skills that naval personnel offer to support ongoing ground missions,” Brown said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Seabees and other sailors are taking an increasing role in reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown said.

“By April of this year, naval officers will command 6 of the 13 provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, and we’ll largely populate those teams with our enlisted Sailors,” Brown said.

In Iraq, sailors also will have an increased role in helping other troops on the ground, Brown said.

“There is a growing need for explosive ordnance disposal and electronic warfare specialists to counter the IED [Improvised Explosive Device] fight,” he said.

“Sailors are also conducting customs inspection duties and serving in combat service support roles throughout the theater, including civil affairs missions.”

Brown said masters at arms and other sailors will make up more of U.S. security forces in Iraq. Recently, sailors took command of a prison in northern Iraq, he said.

“The 520 Sailors at Fort Suse in Northern Iraq, near Sulamaniah, have transitioned their security skills to the joint mission of guarding detainees,” he said. “Fort Suse can hold approximately 1,400 to 1,600 detainees.”

On Tuesday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael G. Mullen told reporters that sailors would replace troops as other branches of the service draw down in Iraq.

“It’s very clear that the ground forces have been in a very tough rotation over the last several years, and if we can pitch in and help relieve some of that we’re going to do that,” Mullen said.


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