Women of the Military

From Military Intelligence Officer to Culture Expert: Daniella Mestyanek Young

Episode Summary

What can we learn about military culture from a cult survivor? Check out Daniella Mestyanek Young's experience of growing up in a cult, bootstrapping her way through high school and college, serving in the military, and now the work she does around diving deep into the culture. Her book Uncultured being released in Fall 2022 covers these topics. In this week's interview, we dived into some of the aspects of her book and her experience in the military.

Episode Notes

Women of the Military would like to thank Sabio Coding Bootcamp for sponsoring this week's episode! Sabio Coding Bootcamp is a top-ranked coding Bootcamp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers.  Visit their website www.Sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at Sabio.  Your tuition and a monthly BAH stipend may be paid during your training period.  They also are 100% committed to helping you find your first job in tech.  Don’t forget to head over to www.Sabio.la to learn more today.

Check out the full show notes at https://www.airmantomom.com/2021/07/military-culture/

Check out the full transcript here.  

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Become a Patreon member today! Click here.   

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 145 of the women on the military podcast. This week my guest is DanielaMestyanek Young. Daniela grew up in a religious cult and escaped from it when she was 15 and made her way to Texas. She bootstrapped her way through high school and college and served in the US Army. And now she works around diving deep into culture. Her book Uncultured being released in the fall of 2022 covers these topics. I follow Daniella on Twitter, but I've known her for the past few years, and we've worked together on few different projects. And so I'm excited to have her on the podcast and share her unique experience of what it's like to be in the military after living in a cult and the work that she's doing today. So let's get started. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you'll find the real stories of female service members. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mom. I created women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members past and present, with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world. Keep tuned for this latest episode of women on the military. Women of the military podcast would like to thank Sabio coding boot camp for sponsoring this week's episode savea coding boot camp is a top ranked coding boot camp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers visit their website at www.sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at savea your tuition and monthly bH stipend may be paid during your training period. They are also 100% committed and helping you find your first job in tech. So don't forget to head over to www.sabio.la to learn more. And now let's get started with this week's interview.  Welcome to the show. Daniella. I'm so excited to have you here. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  02:31

Thanks. I'm so excited to be here. 


Amanda Huffman02:33

So let's start this podcast interview with Why did you decide to join the military? 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  02:38

Can I say it's complicated? Does that count? 


Amanda Huffman02:41



Daniella Mestyanek Young  02:43

No. So Alright, we'll get right into it. You know, I was I like to think of myself as an average girl. But really, I grew up abroad in a bunch of different countries. My parents were in a pretty sort of severe and extreme religious calls. And I'm sure we'll talk about that more. I moved to the US by myself when I was a 15 year old teenager and I sort of, you know, put myself through high school, put myself through college. And at the time, I was feeling very patriotic, and very like I did it. I you know, I lived the American dream. I came here I bootstrapped and I, you know, I'm successful. I have a college degree. I was also graduating in 2009 with a honors degree in English and the biggest economic crisis in our generation. And you know, in addition to that, sort of like the world I had grown up in was very insular and very closed and looking back now I think I I kind of didn't know what else to do as a as a 22 year old girl, and all alone in the world and intelligence officer sounded fun. And OCS program sounded fun. And so I was like, hey, it's just three years. Let me go try it.


Amanda Huffman03:57

It's such a crazy story. And I mean, I know your cult story, but I didn't know that it was overseas for some reason. I thought it was in America and I didn't know that part of your story.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  04:08

Yeah, so the call was called the Children of God in a started in California. So it was like an American based calls out all the other ones in the 70s. But when things started heating up for calls, he received some you know, prophecies from God to go spread out all over the world. So I was actually born in the Philippines and grew up in Brazil and Mexico. I like to say I'm culturally confused and proud of it. Yeah, definitely. Coming to America was the biggest culture shock ever. And I have a chapter about that in my book, called coming to America. 


Amanda Huffman04:43



Daniella Mestyanek Young  04:43



Amanda Huffman04:43

So did you have this like drive and determination that you like needed to get your schooling done and you needed to get your degree or like what pushed you to go from like a coal to coming to America and and accomplishing so much?


Daniella Mestyanek Young  04:58

Absolutely. With To drive, you know, I part of growing up in a call and part of what all call to do is teach you that the outside world is super scary and super bad, and you're going to fail. And that was definitely I was a third generation. So my mom was born in it. My grandfather was in the leadership. And so when I went to leave, you know, I've been hearing all my life, like, all you're going to do is flip burgers at McDonald's and be homeless and be a drug addict and be a prostitute. And so I marched, right, right past McDonald's got hired at chick fil a, but myself through high school and college, and yeah, you know, I think what you picked up on is true, like, at the time, I felt like 10,000 people are hoping that I will fail, right? Like they want to be proven right? So they want this very, like famous child of this famous couple of his famous called to come to fail and come crawling back. And I was like, I will never give them the satisfaction. And I definitely carried that attitude of overdoing everything with me in the military.


Amanda Huffman06:03

Yeah. And so when the you graduated, the economy was kind of in shambles. And the military gave you this opportunity to have a job and to prove yourself you were like, Yes, I want it. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  06:15

Oh, my God. Absolutely. Right. And I, you know, I started reading about military intelligence. I'm one of those people that like, I joined through the officer, the OCS program, and the army. And I researched, I didn't listen to a single thing the recruiter said, otherwise, I would have been enlisted, I research, research, research, everything I wanted. And I was like, oh, military intelligence officer, right? person where you're trying to like, understand these groups of people that are trying to kill you. And even at the time, I really did think that I would be good at that. Because I am coming from a world that nobody understands. And I had to learn to sort of change all my patterns of thinking, do I really felt like military intelligence was going to be good for me. So I set out to try for that. Turns out, all I had to do was run fast, which is not really the best way to pick your intelligence officers, but it worked out for me.


Amanda Huffman07:11

So when you go to OCS, do you do have your job picked out when you go? Or does it come later?


Daniella Mestyanek Young  07:18

No. And this is actually probably one of the bigger failures of OCS. So you when you sign up as a direct, it's essentially considered a direct commission. And you go to regular basic training as an e4 specialist, and you're, you know, MLS, your job in the army is you're an officer candidate. So you go to basic training, you go directly to officer School, where you are then competing, everything you do, and officer school for 12 weeks has a score attached to it, everything you do, and then there's an Order of Merit list. And there's essentially like a football like a fantasy football draft or an NFL Draft on branching day, and you get to walk up and you get to choose from what's available that year, which in our case is whatever, whatever was left after West Point, or to seek out all their slots, like we have whatever's left and you get to choose. And so in my case with military intelligence is very, very competitive. I think we had six slots, we have 27 people that wanted it, they kept telling us you're not going to be James Bond. Also a chapter in my book, you're not James Bond. But it was why I say I think it's one of the fallacies and I see this in most of the way the military does leadership is you know, leadership is about leading other people and helping teams work together better. And then in officer training, I'm not sure if it's this way for you in the Air Force, but all we focus on was individual competition against each other. So really, really divisive. And hazing and just interesting atmosphere in in OCS when I went through.


Amanda Huffman09:04

Yeah, that is true, because you have this like competition for who because they rack and stack everyone in the flight and like everyone wants to be dg, that's what they call it distinguished graduate. But then they're like, want you to do these team building exercises where you work together, but you don't want like the person that you're working with to look really, especially if you're gunning for like the top spot, and for you and more incentive because it was like your job determined. You know, if you if you did well, then you got a better job. For us. It was just kind of like an honor. But there were people who were like gunning for that top spot, and then they would like took people on the way up, which is not the right thing to do.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  09:41

And that's exactly what happened, you know, so I met this girl on basic training, who went to OCS with me who's like my best friend to this day. Yes, she's in the book. And quite simply, she's five feet tall. She's as smart as me. She's as capable of me. She is five feet tall. She just could not run as fast as me who's five Five, right? And it really came down to you know, I mean, it's it's a military school, right. So the training is tough, but you know, competitive people are making hundreds on the test. And it comes down to literally things like, you know, who's who's a minute faster on their run. And my kids specifically because I was running kind of like six minute miles fast. And so I was faster than most of the men, which meant my points were doubled, which meant there was a target on my back. So yeah, it was very, I, I learned very early on in the military, like, you want to run faster and jump harder, because everyone's telling you as a woman, that's what you have to do. But you will also like, never have an easy day in your life. Because as soon as you show up, you know, I worked out hard, I showed up to basic training, able to max out physical fitness. And I had a target on my back from that day from everyone else. So that was six years of managing that definitely got exhausting.


Amanda Huffman10:59

Yeah, that's a really good point. And something that I don't think people I mean, we haven't talked about that, in any of the podcast episodes that I've done, we're about how challenging it is to have these, like two expectations, like you want to do good because you want to excel. But then if you do, that kind of puts you at a point where people notice you, and then you have a target on your back.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  11:20

Yeah. It's very challenging for me. And I feel like, again, you know, my whole time in the military was just a study of group dynamics on top of what I had already come through as a child. And then now I'm actually doing a master's degree at Harvard in organizational psychology, which is kind of the study of groups. And it is quite fascinating, right to see that, like, we'll look at these models of, you know, team building is not just like, take a fun activity and slap something on it. But you really have to be looking at what you're what you're engendering. Yeah. And I think, you know, in in so many ways, I think the military does a really good really focused kind of like leadership training and experience. But that I think, in other ways, they just don't look at you know, you can you can say teamwork, teamwork, teamwork all day long. But as long as you're making people compete for their careers on the individual merits, it's not going to be about the team.


Amanda Huffman12:16

Yeah, that's really true. That's so fascinating. I mean, I think that's why I like following you on Twitter. I told you before we started, I like following you on Twitter, because it's like you say, somehow, I have never thought about that. That's so interesting. And I bet your book will be the same thing.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  12:33

Yeah, you know, so so one of the things I think it's interesting about the the cultural movement that is going on right now around the military, and how I think I'm sort of playing into this. And speaking to this, you know, my book is called uncultured and for so long, women, I mean, women in general, right. But especially in the military, it's been like you can be here, right? Like, when I joined the military, I was allowed to be in the military, not in the infantry, but in the military. But I was not allowed to let anyone sort of remember that I was a girl, right? And I'm sure you experienced this. It's like, you need to run faster, jump higher, be better. I just saw a quote that was like, men in their unit are assumed to be good. And they have to prove themselves worthless. Well, women are assumed to be worthless and have to prove themselves good. And I would say like, I definitely had that experience. So while I was going through, you know, it was oh, you know, Captain maisonnette, can do this Captain maisonnette. Like, she's the one girl that can do everything. And I never even realized till later, like how much pressure that puts on all of the other women, right? Because it's just proving the case. And so, you know, I think what's really going on now that's interesting is women are just like, you know, we've been made forced to choose like, you can be a professional or you can be a woman, you know, you can, you can be competitive, or you can be a woman, you know, you can be Daniela, one of the first women to do deliberate ground combat and get a medal from the president, or you can be a military rape victim, but you can't be both. And I'm just saying, No, I'm both let's talk, you know, what, like, we need to talk about this, right? This is, these are experiences and so far, we really haven't looked at, like the woman's experience in the military as like something that's not an other. So when you have the other you're always trying to be part of the group. You know, this is all the stuff I'm learning. It's psychology. Now. It's like you have an in group then you have an out group and the out group is always trying to be in the in group. And so women have this impossible double bind in anywhere in the world still today, but definitely in sort of male dominated and careers that are deemed to be more physical than anything else.


Amanda Huffman14:49

It's so interesting, because something you said triggered when I went to Afghanistan, they told me that they will kind of look at me as like a third sex so there's like American women Afghan women, they're not the same, but the military kind of looks at military women and civilian women as like a third sex. And I never really thought about how, because I didn't. When I went overseas, it was kind of just like, Oh, yeah, I'm this third weird sex. But I didn't realize like, I've been that the whole time was in the military. So that was why it was really easy to accept.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  15:21

Yes, so Exactly. And it's very true, right? And there's this concept called translational positionality. Right. And it's basically your you have to operate one way to survive and in one location and a different way. And, you know, I can explain that as like to most Americans, I seem very Brazilian, but to Brazilians, I think very American. And so it's who I am actually depends on where I am. And military women created that third gender concept. And it was, interestingly enough, right? It was something that in Afghanistan, and in Iraq was actually a force multiplier. And it was one of those assumptions that like, oh, they're not going to respect you, right? They don't respect women, but then actually finding out like, no, they see me as a US Army Lieutenant, not as a as a woman, right. So that's a different thing. But then also, exactly to your point right back home, it's like in your life, it probably never mattered that much that you were a woman until you put on a uniform. And I mean, in the army, and literally part of your medical process was for them to look up under your you know, proverbial skirt, and make sure that you are a woman, I don't think any other job interviews do that. And so you, you literally come into this life, new life, new organization of the military, of being a woman and everything matters. And you know, we've all heard female used as essentially a slur or a way to trash us. And you know, you don't I agree with you, I think you don't even realize that sometimes until you get out there like now that I can be pretty and wear earrings and wear makeup. It doesn't matter nearly as much so much more of a woman. And yet that doesn't matter of my life nearly as much as it does in, in the military. And it's also one of the reasons I found out that military women have such a hard time sharing their stories and getting heard. It's because the outside world also sees us as this like weird third gender like you do or you were signing up for you join the military to navigating that process. Right. How do you tell your story when there's not a market for your story? Because you're a third gender?


Amanda Huffman17:35

Yeah, that's so true. And it's something that when I started doing the podcast, I started with deployment stories. And one of the questions I asked was, what do you tell people when they find out you deployed? And it ended up being mostly women who responded to the survey and woman after woman was like, well, no one knows I was in the military. So how would they know I deployed and I was like, What? Because I had this blog. And I was like, telling people. And so it was really interesting for me to hear that they weren't telling people about their story. And then that's led to the podcast. And now I have all these women who want to tell their stories. And it's just been a change in like the culture of women willing to share their story, because I feel like there's a community now of women. I mean, I have a bunch of women on Twitter that I follow that, I don't know. But they support the podcast, and they support what I'm doing, and I support what they're doing. And I know if I was in trouble, or if I needed help, I could go to them and get help. And there's this like community of women that are working to change everything.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  18:38

Yeah. And it's interesting, because it's like, we've all been through the same thing. And I actually think one of the things about being a woman in the military, like people will ask me all the time, like, well, don't you miss the camaraderie, you know, this great camaraderie that all the men talk about? And I started to realize, like, Well, no, I don't miss it. Because I didn't have it in the military. Right? Like, and exactly what you said, right now I have, you know, women like you so many countless women, right? And that we're all connected to on on Twitter and on social media. It's like we've had this same experience, and we're building that camaraderie, and realizing that like, you know, two things, I think it's like, other people will try to dominate your story. And I find this to be true. I always say everything I could say about veterans, I can say about cult survivors, too, right? And it's like, there's so many stereotypes about what a woman in the military is that as soon as you you, my friends who are still single, they're like, I won't even tell a guy on a date until we're many dates in that I used to be in the military because it will immediately activate something. Right? That's sort of like they don't know what to do. They immediately feel like they need to like step up to that. And, you know, this is also when you're writing about life in a call. This is an ad Equal thing that I've learned is that people think they know, you know, they think they know what it is. But it's really just this very shallow stereotypes that people have. And so as a women, Veterans Health survivor, like when you're trying to tell that story, you can just be really exhausting meeting up against all those stereotypes and all those things that you feel you have to prove all over again.


Amanda Huffman20:21

Yeah, for sure. I feel like we're not doing a very good job of talking about your military experience. Yeah, so let's go back to when I think the conversation is really interesting and fascinating. So but let's go back to your military experience and talk a little bit more about like, going from the competitive nature, you got the job of military intelligence. And so then what happened?


Daniella Mestyanek Young  20:46

Yeah, so I, you know, I branch military intelligence I went off to for what Yuka where you get trained, and you know, army spy School, which is fun and interesting, for the most part, eight months of snowboarding and waiting for class was a little less interesting, but I got trained on how to file taxes. That was fun. And then I showed up, I got assigned to Fort Campbell to an aviation unit there, the one 5/9 it was the second aviation unit at Fort Campbell, it's no longer there. And I was a you know, young intelligence officer and we were going to Ganesan Two months later, like I got there, just after you know, all the train ops and everything was set to deploy, which is a whole other thing. I think it's interesting about like, when you don't get to train with your team, and then you go to or with your team, that that's very interesting. That was a pretty hard deployment for me as a as a 23 year old, you know, lawned, excited Pepe, Second Lieutenant getting kind of beat down over a year. But I learned a lot about doing intelligence work at the brigade level. And I was also in the right place at the right time to volunteer. So they started asking for 2011 was the year the army decided that they were going to start putting women into sort of deliberate ground combat missions. So of course, as you know, because you were out there before me, you know, women have been involved in combat in every conflict since the Revolutionary War. But it was getting to that point where it was very obvious that we needed women, any mission could turn into combat. So women were already doing it. So why were we just sort of like artificially holding them out of deliberate combat. And so it was this, you know, not secret, but not public experiment that was being done in 2011. And I, of course, was very excited to volunteer and get out of my desk job and go patrol with the infantry. And so I got to do that, throughout that whole deployment, which was, of course, you know, seems just like a cool, fun thing to us at the time turned into a much bigger deal, you know, turned into sort of, well, obviously, the women have now proved they can do it, but they don't have the training to do it. So if we're going to be sending them out in the same place as the man, then we should, you know, send them to Ranger School and send them to training. And so it has actually been really cool to see that all develop, and I got to, you know, have the experience of I wasn't full time on the infantry team, I would just sort of show up and do missions with them and then do my intelligence job. But that was one of the the teams in the units that I got really, really close to, and we were led by a really really amazing the tenant, the late First Lieutenant john Runkle. And he was this guy who really saw like, why, you know, just the potential diversity, right? Like, why we needed women like why we needed to do this, we really expected to show up to a bunch of infantry vet bro dudes that didn't want us and instead, I got put on a team that was like, thank God, you're here, let's go and, you know, change the world. And so yeah, that was a that was a really good experience came home that got told I was going to be the been one of the battalion intelligence officers like my first day off leave, and I wouldn't get a hand up. So you know, it was was army. And so went right down to the from the brigade level to the battalion level and immediately started training up and then went on a second deployment, where we went to person I was in Kandahar a second time I was in bogra, and went over and led intelligence operations over there. I also met my husband on the flight over there, came back and was trying to decide what to do next. And was at that point in my career where I'm either doing this or I'm not doing this, and I knew I wanted a family and a baby. So I decided to make a different choice.


Amanda Huffman24:49

That's really interesting that you found that the infantry unit was open and ready and when I went on my prt deployment people officer often asked me Like, well, what were the guys like, and they were like, you're here, I don't care that you're a woman, like, I felt like they wanted to protect me because, you know, I'm a woman and like, they wanted to protect me and I wasn't infantry, I wasn't trained infantry. So like, they saw it as their job to keep me safe, which that was their job. And they did a really good job of it. But they knew that I had the skills and expertise of civil engineering. And so they just took me on the missions and took me where I need to go. And I had a really positive experience in with the infantry unit, as well. And so it's good to hear that you had a similar experience and that they just accepted you, or they needed you. I liked how you said, they were like, okay, here, finally, we have this for you to do.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  25:45

I mean, that really was what it is, right? Because they were already operating under a very restrictive rules of engagement, where they couldn't like engage with the women and the population. And, and most of the job my team was doing was just trying to engage with the population. And it was essentially peacekeeping operations, right, not really combat. And so they knew that it was going to be this force multiplier. I mean, they definitely did. Do you know, Oh, so you think you want to be in the infantry, right, and they made us prove it, and I was able to sprint faster in full battle rattle than the lieutenant was in his PT uniform. And so from then on, I was just like, accepted


Amanda Huffman26:24

They were like, you passed the test.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  26:26

Yeah, they gave him a really hard time about that. But he was cool. The same thing, like you said, right. It's like, they knew that we weren't there. You know, I wasn't on the patrol to be another infantry Lieutenant, I was on the patrol to engage with the women. And, you know, I've written about this in my book with like, the different things, right. So in military intelligence, like you have indicators, you have things you want to see that are signs of danger when you put them all together, and like men and women just have different experiences walking through the world. So we get to a village and he realizes the sand looks funny. And I realize there are no children, right together, we can very quickly put together like, oh, maybe there's a bomb in the road. And when you just look back at, you know, 250 years of fighting, maybe women would have noticed things, you know, or had ideas that would have kept men alive. Right. And I think that's really what the military soft very quickly, as soon as we started doing this, which is just the way progress goes generally.


Amanda Huffman27:31

Yeah, I interviewed Aniela Szymanski, and she was a civil affairs officer in a place that have never had a woman civil affairs officer. And at first, they were like, oh, my goodness, what are you gonna do like, and then I found out like, she could see the world from a different perspective. And they were like, Oh, this works better. Like, we need a woman here. And it's the same type of thing. Like when you have men and women working together, we see stuff from different perspectives, and then we can get better. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  27:59

Absolutely. And you know, I, I learned this from the brigade, one of the brigade intelligence officers that I worked under that he would he was like, parsing out all of his trainees to the different units. He was like, it doesn't matter who's senior and who's Junior. But every team is going to have a man and a woman as to as to, you know, the intelligence and the assistant, like, every team will have a man and a woman because you just bring different perspectives and ideas. And it's, it's sort of silly to not engage that capability. I always say when, when both men and women are trying to kill you, it seems pretty obvious to have both men and women trying to keep you alive.


Amanda Huffman28:36

Yeah. But it's something that the military missed for so long. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  28:40

Sure is, blind spot. 


Amanda Huffman28:42

So let's go back and you talked about your transition, and you wanted to leave the military because you wanted to have a family? Did you not see being a mom and being in the Army as a possibility?


Daniella Mestyanek Young  28:53

So you know, I definitely always say like, leaving them Why? Why do you want to leave the military? As always, like, why did you get divorced? or Why did you leave a call? It's like, it's complicated. There was many things, you know, there was a lot of, you know, let's face it, we all know, the military, this way of doing people management is quite terrible. And I think I absolutely would have been willing to stay and try to figure it out and try to you know, have my kid and have my family. If I got to do some cool job. You know, I speak three languages, fluently. I wanted to go do cool things for the country. And after six years of, you know, doing the 101st and doing Afghanistan, I was really excited. And it was just, it was too complicated. It was too impossible to predict, right? Like sort of when we're when we're nearing our 30s we want a little bit more control over our lives. And my husband was going into the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and so it was gonna be you know, it was it was five years of college. Constant constant constant deployment when we had a young baby, so it was just obviously easier for me. I only had six years and he had 15. So I would get out and he would retire. And it's, you know, I think the same story for so many women.


Amanda Huffman30:14

Yeah, I feel like that the military had some sort of loyalty towards me where like, I always had this fear that like, I would sacrifice all this for the military. And then I get to the, like, 15 year point, and they'd be like, Okay, well, your husband's going here, and you're going here. And then we would be like, five years away from retirement and be like, forced to live apart. And I was like, I can't sacrifice all that, and then get to the point where the military just screws me over. Because there isn't that loyalty of like, well, we want to take care of like, I think they're trying to change the culture. But at the time, when I was getting out, there was no, like, loyalty towards keeping families together. It was whatever the needs of the military are. And it's like, well, I can't, but it's my family. I can't just let the military determine what's important for my family. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  31:02

Yeah, exactly. I'm that, you know, like I said, like, when I joined, I was 22. And I had nobody, and when I was 28, was a family. Like, that's a completely different scenario. And, you know, like, right, as I was trying to make my decision, it was like, I got, I got an offer to go be a Portuguese professor at West Point, which is, like, amazing, like, I go get a Master's, I go teach this. They were apparently desperately in need of Portuguese professor. And here, I am, like a captain that already speaks Brazilian Portuguese. And I was like, sure, we'd love to do this. What's your, you know, married couples program, like, and they were like, nope, don't even don't even try. Like, if you try, you're considered to be single for five years. And I'm like, Yeah, okay. Like, that's not even an option, obviously. And, you know, same thing, like my, my husband was being moved to his special operations unit, and I was pregnant, and they just wanted to leave me on my own at Fort Campbell for 18 months to have my baby to recover, to then go to the career course to then tell me they would try to station me with my husband. And I was like, You guys don't understand that I don't have a contract here. And I don't need this. And so you know, as as much as I think at the time would have loved to stay right. And I in my head, when I went on that deployment, I saw my career going, I come back, I go do the career course I do a few more cool things. And I get out around eight to 10 years. And you know, unfortunately, that just didn't work. And you know, fascinated now, the Air Force has just put out a policy where captains majors and colonels can sort of choose to exempt themselves from promotion, for enough time to go, like, take cool jobs or do cool things. And yeah, I think stuff like that, like, I was so interested in being a foreign area officer and being a diplomat, go doing some of those things. And, you know, I would always get told, but like, your career will be over, like, all you will do is be a major and be FAO. And I was like, I'm fine with that, like, you know, like, those, those jobs should exist in those paths. Hopefully, they're getting to where you can do some of these things. And it's not only enriching for us, but it's using our talents for for the military. I think we most of us joined because we wanted to be there.


Amanda Huffman33:21

Yeah, I can just feel how I felt when I left the military through what you're saying. Because, like, I didn't want to leave, but I also was like, I just can't do it. And I think like you said, the military is changing. And I think they're trying to make things better and easier. But yeah, when I got out, it was kind of like, you have to figure it out, you have to get stationed together, you have to find the jobs that make that work. And I was like, and I have to raise my family at the same time. I just don't think this is gonna work. And so


Daniella Mestyanek Young  33:53

You know, and it's especially true for women. And honestly, if they don't start, you know, all of this gender blind stuff we all know is ridiculous. You know, if you don't start looking at officer, Officer retention, that's a problem. It's women officer retention, and that's a problem. And if you don't start looking at why, you know, it's incredibly difficult to find an officer over the rank of oh three, you know, still an active duty, then compare it on the right to the ratios, then, then you're not really going to start finding the problems and and the things that that take us out.


Amanda Huffman34:24

Yeah, it's, it seems to me, or at least it feels to me like the military is asking the women who are still on active duty, and they're like, why are all these women leaving? And I'm like, that's not who you're supposed to be asking. They don't know. They're still in.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  34:39

Yes. So and that's 100% true. And that needs a lot more focus, right. And I think they're starting to do that with sharp and it's really cool, but like, every time I hear like, oh, they're putting together these panels to decide right or even in. I was doing transition coaching for years, and it's like, who approves the transition plan. It's the brigade. Commander, the guy who has never interviewed for a job in his life, the guy who has never had to put a resume together, right? Like, no, no, that shouldn't be the people, right? You absolutely. To your point, right. Like if you want to find out why women are leaving the military, show me your commission of captains, lieutenants and he threes and fours that are answering your questions right about, like why women are getting out of the military.


Amanda Huffman35:23

And not retired generals.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  35:25

The same thing is true for when you're trying to fix the culture. Because honestly, like, we probably don't have time to get into everything with internalized misogyny and the things we need to do to survive in an unequal world. But when you're only asking the most senior women who have stuck it out for 30 years, what needs to be changed? Can they even really sort of remember or see, you know, some of the stuff that they've just been putting up with for so long or as like, I mean, second, lieutenants on Twitter are fabulous, they will point out everything that is wrong with your process. They will also point out that they're 22 years old and still very young in green. But you know, yeah, it's I think, looking at the younger people in your organization is something that really needs to start happening more when people are trying to figure out like, what is driving us out?


Amanda Huffman36:15

Yeah. And I think as a veteran, it's a lot easier to see some of those things that you like, put up with that weren't, like normal, just like when you're in a cult, they're normal, and then you get out and you're like, it's not normal. But when you're in it, it's really hard to differentiate what's between normal because especially like, if you went to college, and then you join the military, and your only job is military life, you don't really know what it's like to be in an office environment to work in, then you're in the military. And it's just been really fascinating. Because when I left the military, I was like, What am I gonna do? I served in the military, I can't do anything as great. And now I now I love my job in a way that it's just makes me so happy. And I'm able to serve people in a way that I didn't think I could do, except by serving in the military, which was true.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  37:03

Yeah, um, you know, I absolutely agree with what you said. And it's, it's very much true. And in fact, you know, sort of the, the thesis of of uncultured my memoir really is that, you know, there's danger in group behavior when it goes unrecognized, right, which is what you said, it's like, when you're in it, you can't see it. Right? You can't see how weird it is, like all of us when we joined the army. I'm sure the words too easy sounded weird, because that's not a concept that makes sense. Nothing's easy is a good thing. How can you have too easy, but by the time you get out of basic training, like you're throwing too easy around like everyone, you know, and that's really, honestly, in my book, and then diving into all of my crazy experiences and trying to see why they matter is it really comes down to that, right? It's anything can be normal, if everyone in your group says that it's normal, right? Anything from I grew up in a group that literally taught pedophilia for God and religious prostitution and 10,000 people followed it right to you know, walking into a room and saying, Hey, we're not in the business of hearts and butterflies, we're in the business of killing people. And that being totally normal is just another Tuesday at a conference meeting, you know, and so it really is so much of this transition. And look, now I call them all I call them total ownership groups, like anything that you have to leave, especially anything that other people can stop you from leaving or kick you out. Actually an excommunication process is one of the defining features of occult which the military has, right, you can be kicked out of this group against your will. Or if it's, you know, this sort of process to leave like, Alright, there's, there's not saying that it's evil, right. But I'm saying that there's going to be very similar things here that you're going to have to go through, which is about learning about the outside world, right? My, my husband retired at 38 years old. And he said to me one day, he said, No, this is this is just how I dress. And I said, babe, you don't know how you dress, you only have fatigues and loungewear you don't actually know what your style is. And now he's developing it and it's very suave and stylish. So I love it. But yeah, it's you know, it's that process and really finding out and that has been my journey, like who you are what you want to do, right? When you get out of the military, you have to pick a pick a new career, right? Just pick one. And then you have to try to translate all of your experiences from this one group, and make the matter as applicable to this other group. And I think I was good at that because I did it coming out of a call. And I did it again coming out of the military. And so now when it comes down to like you said, I feel the same way. I mean, I loved my job in the military, but now I love what I do even more and I think like I I'm getting to build a career having national international conversations about culture and getting paid to do it. And that was the vision I wrote on the wall four years ago. So it takes time, though.


Amanda Huffman40:12

Yeah, Yeah, it does. So is there anything from your military time that we didn't talk about? Before we kind of wrap it up? 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  40:19

You know, I would definitely say we didn't talk about I was assaulted on my first deployment. And I couldn't report it. Because I didn't have the support for my command. And I was technically breaking rules. And so it just, you know, I knew at the time that my career would have been ended. And so instead of, you know, being a 23 year old woman being able to say, Hey, I just got raped, I would have been looked at as why was this Lieutenant breaking the rules? And what are we going to do with her, you know, and along that line, right, just sort of all of the harassment and attitudes towards women that are in the military, which is, obviously formed me a lot is a big part of what I write about, and what I do now. And it's just, you know, it's really, really sad, obviously, that in 2021, being assaulted in uniform is basically considered to be a hazard of duty for women, when they go in. And I just, I don't think we can talk about that enough. But I don't think we can put you know, enough focus on how, when people are not equal, people are other, and when people are others, they're the enemy. And when people are the enemy, the US military is like, really good at, like, killing and harming their enemies. And so it really is, I think, this focus and passion and I know drives you, it drives me, so many of us, you know, it's like, it's not just, we need to end, you know, it's not just like, this guy raped me, he's a bad guy, we need to end rape in the military, that we need to take it all the way back to when, you know, we're being told we can't do certain things, because we're not good enough because of our gender. Like, that's where rape culture starts.


Amanda Huffman42:08

Yeah, and we already talked about that other sex type of like, the third sex, that's not quite a woman, but is a woman. And that's why I feel like the military right now is like, well, if we just put this pretty bandaid on it, it'll go away, right? And it's like, no, it's like, ingrained, it's gonna be hard. It's like anything that is change in like your personal life. But in the military, as a culture, it's a lot of hard work. And you can't just be like, Oh, well write up this document. And then it'll go away. It's like, No, you have to like, actually figure out what's going on and then work to change the culture.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  42:43

Yeah. And you know, we talk about values so much, right? And if your values are the foundation of what you build on, and then those values change, or those values are seen to be bad, you need to go back and you need to dig into it. Right? So in my story, and I show this in the book, right? Where is this? This cult leader decided that sex with children was fine, right was God's will, and 1000s of children were abused. And then eventually they stopped that policy. And this is sort of similar to the Mormons and their polygamy, right? And they stopped it. But they never repudiated it, right? Because then they would say, like, the prophet is wrong. And so of course, it kept going on, right, your whole organization was built on these values. And this is sort of, I think, very similar in the military, where it's like, we need to go back to a time where we were telling women, you're not good enough writing it into the regulations, you cannot do these things, because you were born a women. And we need to look at all you know, every leader in the military today led during a time of gender segregation. And so they've all been influenced by that, right? It's the same way we've all been influenced by white supremacy in our culture and racism, and the sexism is so sort of deeply intertwined in our military organizations, that it it is one of those things that it's like you can't you know, you can't fix a faulty house by just putting a new roof on it, you're at some point, you're really going to need to dig down into what's out that foundation. And what gives me so much like inspiration and courage and hope is that I think that the military is starting to do that, you know, we are we really are starting to see the highest levels of the leadership, like get really granular and really tactical about these little things. And, you know, we're starting to see now I think, like some of these, I love watching these young lieutenants operating and social media in their public spaces, and they're able to be, I think, strong and public the way you and I probably wish we could have been and when people threaten them, you know, the entire military, Twitter like gets together and goes and stops those guys out just the way that you should when someone threatens one of your team members, right? And I heard this concept recently that I love that's like, we need to start talking about rape as fratricide. And we need to start dealing with it that way. Because we're we're pretty serious about preventing fratricide, and we're pretty good at, you know, making sure when it happens, it is just one off events. And it's not a systemic problem. And I think if we put some of those same focuses and same processes, and look at how we change some of these other cultural things, and just really make it a priority, what was the quote, I saw, I was another second lieutenant. It was when the people in charge decide to make the change. I want to be part of that conversation. And I really like that.


Amanda Huffman45:42

Yeah. So where can people find you on Twitter? 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  45:46

Alright, so on Twitter, I am Daniella with two L's and young. That is definitely my most active platform. I try with some other things. But you know, I have a blog too. But Twitter is just like, I'm a I'm a Twitter, right. So if you want to connect, find me on Twitter, you can find uncultured for now also on Goodreads if you want to add it to your book list, and there will definitely be you know, fun, exciting news and updates, hopefully coming after this summer.


Amanda Huffman46:16

Yeah. And it's coming out next fall. 2022. Right. That's the plan. I've really enjoyed getting to talk to you. And I find I found all this so fascinating. I really hope everyone enjoys it. And I always like to end the podcast with what advice would you give to young women who are considering military service?


Daniella Mestyanek Young  46:37

Yeah. So first of all, thanks for having me. And thanks for creating this platform, right for military women to share their stories. I've been a fan of you for so long. And I'm so like proud of what you do. My advice to military women is or to women that want to join the military is something I say a lot, which is information is never bad. So do your homework, do your research, find out we can help you, right you any woman out there could have messaged me, or probably Amanda and saying, Hey, I'm thinking of joining the military and like we will help you, we will connect you. But really figure out even if you can't guarantee it, right, figure out what exact job you want, what the path is to get there, and then go find people all at all levels of that path and interview them and ask them for help. This is the same thing. I tell veterans, when they're getting out of the military, it's like you need to find need to find someone in the job. You think you're qualified for now and learn exactly what it's like. But you also need to find those people 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road and hear from them. And I think it's so important for us to keep getting like strong, amazing driven women in the military. I just want them to go in with eyes a lot more open than I did, so that they're prepared for the fight they're gonna have, because that's, that's where we're still at.


Amanda Huffman47:57

Yeah, I think that's really great advice. And I love that it's advice not only for joining the military, but for leaving the military, because that's, I think the more information that you can get with going into the military, which is one transition, and then getting out, which is another transition is really the most helpful thing for both of those because I feel like I didn't ask enough questions when I joined the military. And I got lucky because a friend took me to lunch and told me about ROTC. But if I didn't have lunch with him, I would have enlisted and done the job that I probably wouldn't have liked and who knows what my story would have been. But I don't want people to rely on luck.


Daniella Mestyanek Young  48:35

And that's exactly, you know, the point I think for listeners is it's not luck. My favorite quote is luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You know, you went and you made that opportunity to get told that information. So people that are listening, they can go create that opportunity, you know, and go find out and yeah, just just don't go in blind go in knowing you know, ask the questions and make sure you're getting like a plethora of people giving you their opinion, because that's, that's the best way you're going to make the best decision. And you actually reminded me it's a great point to plug my TED Talk. So I have a TED talk. So you can just google Daniela young TEDx. And I actually talked about this with transition, which would be the same thing for transitioning into the military, which is gotta find your purpose, you got to know your why. And then you got to find like the people and the process and check out the TED Talk, it makes more sense. But it's like, isn't just you sign a paper and you launch into the unknown, right? Like you can build a successful transition either into or out of the military without a doubt.


Amanda Huffman49:40

Yeah, and I'll link to that in the show notes. Because that way, I'll make it easy to find it. And so it'll be in the show notes if you want to go check it out. And I'll also include your Twitter profile and other social media channels so people can connect with you. And thank you so much for being on the podcast. 


Daniella Mestyanek Young  49:56

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. And because people have Ask the name is Daniela messtechnik. Young that's how you say it and I look forward to following conversations from listeners.


Amanda Huffman50:15

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