The sailors do not perform raids or attack insurgent positions. But some of their missions, particularly defusing homemade bombs, can be dangerous.
Though most sailors sent to Iraq and Afghanistan volunteer, Navy officials say everyone should be prepared to serve.
"If you're wearing a uniform, you're a volunteer for whatever the military needs from you," said Lt. Trey Brown, a Navy spokesman. "We want to take the people who are more eager, but everybody has got to be ready to go."
Not all sailors are enthusiastic about the Navy's support role.
A Naval Academy graduate based in San Diego received orders on Wednesday to report to another base in 12 days and ship out to Iraq, even after he specifically turned down a request to volunteer. To him, the program refutes pronouncements by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the Army is "battle-hardened" but in good shape.
"Rumsfeld says the Army is not stretched too thin, but you have sailors relieving the Army," said the officer, who wished to remain anonymous. "A little straightforwardness goes a long way. We'd like the same from the folks on high."