Shortly after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Elton enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR). He served in the 4th Marine Division for two years as an Artilleryman before obtaining a conditional release and a lateral transfer to the U.S. Army in order to volunteer for U.S. Army Special Forces training (the “Green Berets”). Elton served in the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he trained as a Communications Specialist (Radio Operator) and cross-trained as a Heavy Weapons Specialist (mortars and heavy machine guns). He spent five years in Special Forces as an enlisted man and five years as an officer.
In 1985, Elton was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Armor Branch, although he later transferred to the Infantry Branch. After 9/11, Elton served two tours of duty in Iraq and one tour of duty in Afghanistan. During his first tour of duty in Iraq, he initially commanded a Special Operations Detachment (SOD) of U.S. military personnel attached to the Joint Headquarters (JHQ) of the Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF). Later during this tour, he served as the only U.S. military member attached to the Iraqi National Task Force (INTF), an elite unit of the Iraqi Army (IA). During his tour to Afghanistan, he briefly served as the Acting Commanding Officer (CO) of the Afghan National Army, Special Operations Advisory Group (ANA-SOAG), an elite unit comprised mainly of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets), U.S. Navy Seals, and Canadian Army Special Forces soldiers (CANSOF). Elton is one of the few U.S. Army officers to command a joint unit of U.S. Army and Canadian Army soldiers. During this tour he was briefly attached to the Afghan National Army (ANA), 1st Commando Brigade, making him the only U.S. military member to have served with both Iraqi Army special operations soldiers (IA Forcemen) and Afghan National Army special operations soldiers (ANA Commandos).
Elton’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the U.S. Army Combat Action Badge (“CAB”; awarded for actively engaging the enemy in combat). Elton has been awarded the US Army Parachutist Badge, the Canadian Army Parachutist Badge, and the Afghan Army Parachutist Badge. Elton retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Retired Reserves.