WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 6, 2012) -- Missouri National Guard Staff Sgt. Robert J. Traxel, 34, of Union, Mo. died July 2 while performing his annual training duties in support of Beyond the Horizon Guatemala.

Initial reports indicate Traxel died of injuries sustained after he was struck in the head by a tree limb that fell due to wind generated by helicopter rotor blades during a training exercise. Traxel was providing public affairs support at the exercise. The incident is still under investigation.

"The men and women of the Missouri National Guard demonstrate self-sacrifice every day, no matter if they are serving in Missouri or in countries around the world," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. "The family, friends and colleagues of Staff Sgt. Traxel are in our prayers, as we remember this brave Citizen-Soldier who served not only in the Guard, but also during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as both an active-duty Soldier and Marine. He answered the call of duty many times, and our state and nation are grateful."

Traxel was a public affairs broadcast specialist with the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment out of Jefferson City, Mo. He joined the unit and the Missouri National Guard on April 19, 2012 after more than seven years of prior service with the active Army and Marines. He was conducting annual training and providing broadcast journalism support to Beyond the Horizon Guatemala 2012 at the time of his death. The organization is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-conducted joint military and humanitarian exercise.

"Upon joining the Missouri National Guard, SSG Traxel immediately assumed a strong leadership role and we were proud to have him supporting this important mission," said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general for the Missouri National Guard. "At this time, his Missouri National Guard family is working to support his family through this difficult time. And on this Independence Day, it's important to note the ongoing service and sacrifice of our all-volunteer force and their families."

Traxel was a decorated Soldier and served in Afghanistan in 2008 and Iraq in 2011 with the Army. His decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, second award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His next of kin have been notified and funeral arrangements are pending.