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Soldier who died in Guatemala is identified

Apr. 25, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Specialist Hernaldo Beltran Jr., 24, assigned to the 56th Signal Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, died during an exercise called Beyond the Horizons in Guatemala. A large tree branch fell on a group of soldiers working an engineer project in Los Limones, about 53 miles south of Guatemala City, the country's capital city. ()

The Army has identified the soldier who died Tuesday in Guatemala while participating in an exercise called Beyond the Horizon.

Spc. Hernaldo Beltran Jr., 24, was assigned to the 56th Signal Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Beltran, a radio operator, died when a large tree branch fell on a group of soldiers working on an engineer project in Los Limones, about 53 miles south of Guatemala City.

Three other soldiers received non-life-threatening injuries. They were all evacuated by UH-60 Black Hawk to Mega Medica Hospital in Zapaca.

“Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt condolences are with Spc. Beltran’s family,” Lt. Col. Nicole Morris, commander of the 56th Signal Battalion, said in a statement. “Our unit mourns the loss of Hernaldo. He was a tremendous soldier, and his commitment to our Army was unwavering. We’ve lost a member of our family, and we’ll never forget him.”

Beltran, whose home of record is listed as El Paso, Texas, enlisted in the Army in December 2009.

He arrived at Fort Sam Houston, his first duty station, in July 2010, and was no stranger to Beyond the Horizon. He supported the exercise in Guatemala in 2012 and in Panama in 2013.

His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

A similar incident happened just two years ago, also during Beyond the Horizon in Guatemala.

Staff Sgt. Robert Traxel, of the Missouri National Guard, died July 2, 2012, from injuries sustained after he was hit in the head by a tree limb that fell because of wind generated by helicopter rotor blades during the training exercise.

Beyond the Horizon is an annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercise planned and led by Army South, and it provides construction and medical assistance to partner nations throughout the Central and South America and Caribbean region.

The exercise lasts for several months, with units rotating in and out, typically for two or three weeks at a time.

Five construction projects were planned for the current Beyond the Horizon in Guatemala, said Lt. Col. Carol McClelland, a spokeswoman for Army South.

The exercise began March 15 and is slated to run through June 27, she said.

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