I spent many years in the Army with a small, grey square of magical cloth on my shoulder. OK, it wasn’t really “magical”. But I like to think of it as a magical piece of cloth called glint tape.
Because most of my training and combat operations were at night, I double-checked to ensure this little piece of cloth attached by Velcro to my uniform was there, as one of the last things I did before conducting a mission. I treated this little piece of cloth like it was a lifesaving piece of equipment… because it was!
Let me explain to you how this small square of glint tape attached to my combat uniform became so important to me. But stick around to the end, because I also want to make an obvious spiritual connection between glint tape and the Glory of God.
It can bail you out of a big problem
I occasionally write about the night operations of the US Army Rangers, because it was such a big part of my military career. The advanced night vision capabilities of the US military made this piece of cloth invaluable to special operations warriors during training and combat.
The cloth itself is made from a reflective material like that used in road signs. This cloth has no ability to create nor generate light on its own. However, when the right night vision technology is used, this cloth shines like a beacon in the darkness.
This cloth is basically the opposite concept of the Ranger Cat Eyes I described in a different article.
To help you understand how this material works, think about how road signs reflect your headlights as you drive down a dark interstate highway. This is the exact same idea as how glint tape works on a military uniform. The Rangers that I served with used glint tape to signal our location to aircraft flying overhead.
When caught in a difficult situation or surrounded by enemy, I could radio attack aircraft flying overhead and ask them for immediate close air support. That aircraft could spot me in the darkest conditions because of this little piece of gray cloth on my uniform.
On many occasions, that piece of glint tape saved my life.
It can get you in trouble if you misuse it
Glint tape bailed me out in some big problems when I had the right attack aircraft overhead. However, misusing this piece of cloth could also get me in big trouble. I learned this firsthand while going through a training exercise in the late 1990s. Thank God, we learned this lesson during training and not in a real combat mission!
While moving quietly under the cover of darkness through the dense woods of Fort Polk, Louisiana, glint tape got Rangers in a bit of trouble. The mission was to move on foot through the trees until they reached the border of the nearby town.
At the edge of the trees, Rangers would then spread out and commence an assault on the town from all directions at once. For this mission to be successful, the Rangers needed to arrive at the edge of town without being detected by enemy forces.
And this is where the glint tape became problematic.
One of the leaders of the enemy forces was a former Ranger. This former Ranger was tasked with pretending to be the toughest enemy this unit would face. During this training mission, Rangers relearned a critical weakness in our dependency on glint tape when this enemy leader turned our tactics and equipment against us.
The enemy commander knew that Rangers would assault from the edge of the tree line. He deployed his enemy forces to the edge of the city and directed them to focus all their attention on the trees surrounding the city, leaving the center of the city unprotected and completely vulnerable to assault. It was a dangerous move for this enemy leader, but he knew Rangers well enough to know it would pay off.
Here’s the problem: This former Ranger and his enemy forces could hear the assault force as they neared the edge of town. He knew that they were getting in position and getting ready to assault the city. However, neither he nor anyone from his forces could identify exactly where the Rangers were.
They could hear them, but they could not see them.
That’s when he cheated! Frustrated that he couldn’t see these Rangers as they got into position to assault his city, he used his prior experience in the unit and knowledge of Ranger tactics against the Rangers. He grabbed his very powerful, white flashlight and pointed it toward the trees.
As you can imagine, the woods lit up like lights dancing on a Christmas tree in the middle of the night. That white flashlight made every Ranger visible because of the glint tape on their uniforms. At this point, it was easy for the enemy commander to direct his forces to shoot the Rangers while they were still in the trees before they were even able to assault the city.
At the end of this training mission, which was a total disaster, the Rangers learned a powerful lesson. This little piece of cloth that is so valuable during combat operations can also make you vulnerable to anyone who knows your tactics.
This training mission became the lesson that changed the uniform for all Rangers in the future. To this day, because of this training mission, Ranger use a piece of cloth to hide the glint tape on their uniforms until the assault begins and the attack aircraft are overhead– the point in a combat operation when the firepower of the US military is so overwhelming that it doesn’t matter if the enemy can see the glint tape.
It’s worthless with the right help overhead
Now, let me make a very brief spiritual connection between glint tape and the glory of God from John 1:8. This verse describes John the Baptist. “He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.”
If there was such a thing as a spiritual rock star 2,000 years ago, John the Baptist would be the only one who fit that description. Huge crowds were traveling for long distances just to hear this desert preacher talk about God. Many people’s lives were being changed, and he was baptizing many because of his message.
I find it fascinating that the Bible describes John as the one pointing toward the light, but not the light himself. In other words, the Bible doesn’t want you to be confused; John is not the promised Son of God. Rather, he is the one pointing people to the coming Messiah.
Glint tape has no ability to generate light on its own. Without the right night vision equipment, glint tape is virtually impossible to see at night. With the right equipment, it shines brilliantly in the darkness. This painful lesson that the Rangers learned could only happen because a former Ranger used their dependency on glint tape against them.
Glint tape reflects light but has no ability to generate light on its own, and this is also true of Christians! John the Baptist was one of the greatest servants of God recorded in the Bible. John 1:8 is unmistakably clear: If John the Baptist cannot generate light on his own, neither can you nor I.
However, John shone brilliantly in the darkness because he pointed people to the true light. You and I also shine brilliantly in dark situations when we point people to Jesus Christ!
If you are a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit of the living God dwelling within you. You have the power of God hovering over you. You have nothing to fear in the darkest circumstances of life, because you have help at your disposal like those Rangers have aircraft ready to bail them out in a difficult situation.
Your job, and mine, is to point people to the true light. Live like John the Baptist this week. Live out your faith like a piece of glint tape this week. Point people to Jesus by reflecting his light to others around you.
If you want to know more about how to reflect Jesus like a piece of glint tape, check out this recent sermon.