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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Navy is tripling the amount of paid maternity leave that female sailors and Marines can take after the birth of a child, and will now provide a total of 18 weeks off.

The Navy is the first military service to provide more than the current six weeks of leave.

Officials said that about 5,000 women would be eligible for the benefit each year, including 500 officers.

The change was directed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.