I am decently versed in other branches of the military (ETA: I am asking about the US Armed Forces in particular, which I didn't originally make clear-- thank you for correcting my oversight, sollersuk!), but the Navy seems to be a creature unto itself, and I am nigh-offensively clueless as far as this goes, so any help would be appreciated like no other. :) I have cruised the military tag here and I have Googled quite a few things-- stuff like "naval officer ranks" and "navy ranks" and "naval career"-- I have so many questions related to her that search terms are a little broad and useless. My needs are many, manifold, and pretty specific, so I thought that coming to a community of smart folks might be an even better option. Thank you a million times in advance, really and seriously.
The piece is a post-apocalyptic zombie story set in 2011, and the character is a Naval pilot. I'm in the roughest possible stages of conceptualization, but I do know that the character is an extremely tough and ballsy woman that has excelled at her duties and has risen through the ranks swiftly.
She was part of a rescue operation to try to evacuate a convoy of civilians from Sag Harbor, Long Island. Marines were deployed on a non-combatant evacuation operation to secure the route out to the ships, where the civilians could be evacuated to safety. The mission was a failure, since the military was not adequately prepared for the rapidly-spreading zombie threat; after being separated from their unit, one Marine company retreated to Montauk Point, with a Naval ship due to rendezvous with them for extraction. The zombies picked off all but one of the remainder of the men as the vessel was delayed again and again; finally they stopped replying to radio calls at all, and the single surviving Marine eventually learned that the vessel went down in the midst of the chaos on the high seas.
What I have figured is that the report of it going down was false, and the vessel was overrun with infected, leaving my Naval pilot as the last remaining survivor on the vessel that was somehow left inert on the open sea.
So, my questions are as follows (and oh dear god there are so many, ANY help on ANY question would be appreciated!! and do not be ashamed of being long-winded if you have a lot of knowledge that you are willing to share! xD):
1.) I need to suss out a military career for her. In order to become an officer, she would have had to attend a naval academy (West Point?). If she graduated from high school in 1998, how long would it have taken her to complete her education at the academy afterward? What would the academy have prepared her for-- would she have needed extra training to become a helicopter pilot? What kind of combat training do Naval officers/pilots receive?
2.) This one is more general, and I am sure I can find things on Google as well, but: as a woman in the Navy, what are some of the challenges she may have faced? (Anecdotes, links to blogs or articles, anything like that would be brilliant!)
3.) At the time of the zombie crisis, it is 2011. What kind of rank could she have attained by this time, if she were to excel at her duties, and what precisely does that rank entail? (I'm not looking to design a Mary Sue here, just someone really energetic and dedicated and who loves her job-- she's greatly inspired by BSG's Kara Thrace, really, if that gives any indication of what sort of hard-working cocky pain in the ass she is.)
4.) How likely would it be that an aircraft carrier would be dispatched to extract the military/collect civilians in an emergency situation? I think it was sort of an ad-hoc idea in the first place when things fell apart, but is that realistic? Who would authorize a thing like that?
5.) The becalmed ship does not necessarily have to be an aircraft carrier at all. Would a helicopter pilot have to land solely on an aircraft carrier, or could she have been involved with/servicing another class of ship, since copters are smaller and easier to maneuver?
6.) What could have happened to her copter to keep her trapped on the becalmed ship?
7.) What would her career have been like as far as active duty/deployments go? Would 9/11 have had an effect on anything (although presumably she'd still have been at the academy)? Would she have seen action overseas at any point?
8.) What kind of things could render a vessel completely useless on the open sea? What sorts of things would she be prepared to try to get the vessel going again?
9.) Any vague ideas on what divisions/battalions/squadrons/things I don't know the words for that she would have been in? She's originally from Oregon, if that makes any difference whatsoever, but she is enthusiastic enough about her career that she would have relocated preeeeetty much anywhere. :)