TIKRIT, Iraq — A a mother and son serving together in Iraq say the experience is the natural progression in service to their country.
But Spc. Lauren Kostoff, 22, still takes some ribbing from his fellow soldiers.
"I get picked on a lot because my mom is over here to protect me, but I'm very proud to say that my mother is in the same combat zone as I am in," said Kostoff. "It's a good feeling, being so far away from home and still having your mom so close to take care of you."
"Lauren's an adult, but I'm still a mom so I worry constantly," said Chief Warrant Officer Tammy Kostoff. "Being here helps because I have a better knowledge of what's going on, as opposed to being at home, wondering."
Both Kostoffs are full-time employees of the Montana Army National Guard. When Lauren received deployment orders in 2004 to go to Iraq with the 116th Brigade Combat Team, Tammy Kostoff offered to go as a budget officer.
Kostoff has spent most of her deployment at Forward Operating Base Danger, about 70 miles away from her son, who is stationed at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk.
But they were able to go on a combat patrol together when the younger Kostoff's unit took soldiers to inspect schools funded by coalition forces in the Kirkuk area.
"Being on patrol with my son was amazing. I never really knew exactly what he did until I experienced it firsthand. I am so proud of him," Kostoff said.
"I was nervous about taking my mom along with us on a combat patrol because of the danger," said Lauren Kostoff. "You never know what might happen, and fortunately it went really well."
Mother and son traveled home to Elliston, Mont., together on leave this summer, getting some strange looks as they walked through the airport wearing the same name tags.
"It's really nice that my mom and I can talk together about Iraq and the experiences we have had here. It's really hard to talk to just anyone ... because they don't know what it is like," Lauren said.