After graduation he continued his training at the Naval School of Dental Assisting and Technology, San Diego, California. Commander Thornton served 12 years as a Dental Technician.
While serving in the enlisted ranks, he was selected Sailor of the Year 1990 and 1997 at his respective duty stations. He also earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Commander Thornton then completed a dual Masters of Arts Degree in Management and Human Resources Development from Webster University.
In July 1998 he was commissioned Lieutenant Junior Grade as a Hospital Administrator in the Medical Service Corps and began his officer training at Naval Education Training Center, Officer Indoctrination School, Newport, Rhode Island where he graduated with military and physical fitness distinction and received the Leadership Award for demonstrating the leadership qualities of personal example, moral responsibility, and good management practices. He then began his accession tour as the Department Head of the World Wide Web and Customer Support Teams at the Naval Medical Information Management Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
In May 2000, Commander Thornton participated in full-time duty under instruction at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Information Technology Management in June 2002 and reported to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan, where he served as the Chief Information Officer and Department Head of the Information Management Information Technology Department. While stationed in Japan he was selected to be the Executive Assistant for the Chief of the Medical Corps, then Rear Admiral Adam M. Robinson, Jr. and reported back to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery code 00MC.
Commander Thornton was then selected as the Flag Lieutenant to the Commander, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda. In this role he was able to successfully communicate the complex plans of the Commander to a myriad of senior officers, and he was instrumental in the planning for the new National Military Medical Center at Bethesda. He then became a “plank owner” and was assigned to the Navy Medicine, National Capital Area, as Executive Assistant to the Regional Commander and the Regional Information Systems Officer.
In February 2008, he became the Chief Information Officer, National Naval Medicine Center, Bethesda and Chief, IT Integration, Joint Task Force, Capital Medical. In this role, CDR Thornton led a team of 290 IT and Informatics professionals that were charged with the complex migration and integration of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Bethesda. He successfully managed a budget of over $175M to install the infrastructure, telecommunications, medical equipment, and IT peripheries for over 1M square feet of renovated and newly constructed medical spaces on the Bethesda campus.
In April 2012, he was assigned to the role of Deputy Chief, Information Management/Information Technology (M6), Department of the Navy, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Medicine, and Chief Information Officer at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. In that role he was responsible for the oversight and strategic delivery of health information technology and informatics for the Navy Medicine enterprise that is comprised of over 62,000 users, supporting 3 Regional Commands, 19 Medical Centers, 169 Medical and Dental Clinics, 8 Expeditionary Medical Facilities and 2 hospital ships. CDR Thornton holds the distinction of being the most junior officer to head a BUMED “Single Digit” code.