ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department has diverted about 500 Seabees from Kuwait to Afghanistan to build facilities for extra troops going there.

The move marks the largest deployment so far of support forces for the new buildup of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

The sailors with the 25th Naval Construction Regiment, out of Gulfport, Miss., are expected to arrive next month in Afghanistan, Whitman told reporters on Friday.

"Where they’re going to be doing their work, exactly what they are going to be doing, I’ll leave that to commanders on the ground," he said. Commanders have not yet determined whether the Seabees will be replaced when they are finished.

Also Friday, Whitman announced that the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, will be going to Afghanistan in February and March as part of a regularly scheduled rotation.

The roughly 3,500 soldiers in the unit will replace the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, now in eastern Afghanistan, he said.

Military planners are working on sending up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where the security situation has sharply deteriorated over the past year. Commanders have requested four additional brigade combat teams’ worth of troops and one combat aviation brigade.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division is expected to arrive this month, followed by the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade in the spring.

Up to two more brigade combat teams’ worth of troops could be sent to Afghanistan this year, followed by a third in 2010, Stars and Stripes has learned.

An unspecified number of the extra troops headed to Afghanistan are expected to be Marines. Whitman said the Seabees’ deployment does not indicate Marines will soon follow.

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