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Bridging the Gulf Coast: A Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 assigned to the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson left New Orleans, wending its way along the Gulf of Mexico coast to Alabama, on a diplomatic tour of past disasters. "The C-17 ride was an interesting experience," said Vice Skracic, deputy head of mission at the Croatian embassy in Washington, D.C. He was one of 40 diplomats who were able to see the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and last year's oil spill in the gulf during the Oct. 21 flight. "There is a lot of work that has gone into getting the city [of New Orleans] more prepared," noted Skracic. Hosted by the Louisiana Air Guard, the aerial tour was part of the State Department's "Experience America" program that introduces foreign diplomats to local business, organizations, and leaders throughout the United States. (New Orleans report by TSgt. Sienna Schehr)