The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force/3rd Wing via Facebook)

After decades with nothing but pistols to defend themselves with in the event of a successful ejection over enemy territory, Air Force pilots are officially rocking compact versions of a rifle that the U.S. military has used since Vietnam.

In the last month, airmen have started receiving the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, a heavily-modified version of the shortened 5.56mm M16 derivative that U.S. service members once brandished in the 1960s as the CAR-15 or "Colt Commando"

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U.S. Navy sailors at Los Angeles International Airport. It took the U.S. government nearly 40 years to recover the wreckage of the E-1B Tracer aircraft that crashed, killing Guerra in 1967. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As kids, Ruben and Raul thought they had life all figured out.

They would grow up and live minutes from each other, be best men in each other's weddings, godfathers to each other's children. They would sit side by side at Dodger Stadium, two old men in a sea of blue.

The friends never imagined that after high school both would be sent to Vietnam — but only one would return.

The loss was so painful that for 40 years Ruben Valencia could hardly bring himself to say Raul Guerra's name.

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Crack open a cold one — the story of the greatest beer run in history is finally coming to the big screen.

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James H. Stogner received the prestigious Navy Cross Medal during a special ceremony Friday afternoon, April 5 at the VFW in Polson, Montana.

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Nothing says "I'm the boss here" like a gold-plated firearm. Deposed Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein knew it; Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi knew it; even legendary fictional assassin and one-time ruler of Khao Phing Kan island Francisco Scaramanga knew it.

Apparently that tradition extends to the U.S. armed forces as well — sort of.

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Vietnam War Memorial. Photo: Sgt. Amber I. Smith/U.S. Army

It was a small clearing in a cane field, just outside of Thon Ba, a small hamlet in Vietnam.

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