Dan Elder was born on 19 October 1961 in Norwich, CT. He joined the Army in December 1981 and attended Initial Entry Training at Fort Knox, KY, graduating as an Infantry Fighting Vehicle Mechanic.
Elder served as a mechanic, recovery vehicle operator, squad leader, maintenance team chief, senior instructor, senior drill sergeant, battalion and brigade motor sergeant, first sergeant, NCOES lesson developer, depot sergeant major, and as a battalion and brigade sergeant major. He served with the 13th Corps Support Command at Fort Hood, TX before his selection as the 12th Command Sergeant Major for the U.S. Army Materiel Command in 2005. He deployed to both Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He served on the Sergeant Major of the Army Board of Directors and was selected to serve as the Command Sergeant Major for the incoming U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George Casey's transition team. He acted as general editor and author of the U.S. Army Center of Military History's book Sergeants Major of the Army and was an advisory team member for the Army Research Institute. He authored the book Educating Noncommissioned Officers and has published numerous articles about U.S. Army NCOs. He has consulted with publishers and authors contributing to such titles as Guardians of the Republic, The Three Meter Zone, and The Shake and Bake Sergeant.
Elder is the founder of the original NCO Website and its successor websites, Squad-leader.com and Firstsergeant.com; two grass-roots, collaboration centers oriented towards Soldiers. In 1991, Elder encouraged Non-Commissioned Officers to use personal computers and the internet to collaborate and share military information and knowledge through the use of a bulletin board collaborative system. Later, he moved the project to the World Wide Web and built a themed portal called the NCO Website. He was awarded the first-ever Army Knowledge Management Pioneer Award in August 2003 by the U.S. Army Chief Information Officer. In October 2005, he donated his successful sites to the Army, which became the BCKS NCO Net, winner of the Army 2007 Knowledge Management Award.
He is the author of the informal Non-Commissioned Officer Induction Ceremony as described in Field Manuel 7-22.7. Additionally, he made the original design proposal for the collar brass and positional colors of the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Elder is a graduate of all the levels of the Non-Commissioned Officer education program. He completed the Command Sergeants Major Course, the Garrison CSM Course, the Battle Staff NCO Course, the CSM Force Management Course and the National Defense University's Keystone Command Senior Enlisted Leader Course. He is a recipient of the Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe and is a 2010 Inductee into the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Hall of Fame. He retired on 1 February 2008 after a 26-year Army career.