U.S. Marines in Afghanistan were reportedly aided in their efforts to flush out insurgents by a jackass who just wanted to go home, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told a group of soldiers this week.

And by “jackass,” we mean an honest-to-God donkey.

Work, a retired Marine colonel, said a U.S. patrol in Afghanistan had spotted what appeared to be Afghan men working with improvised explosive devices.

However, as noted by the Washington Post, Marine rules of engagement dictate that soldiers aren't allowed to attack a target unless a clear threat has been determined. So the Marines had to approach the perceived threat, which, of course, prompted the Afghan men to flee.

But in their haste to escape the Marines, the suspicious men reportedly left behind plenty of bomb-making materials — and a donkey attached to a cart.

“So the Marines come down, and sure enough, there it is. In the hole, there’s all sorts of bomb material,” Work told his audience. “So the Marines say, OK, these guys were really bad guys.”

One sergeant with the group then reportedly got the idea to unhook the donkey from the cart and suggested the patrol follow it where it took them.

“So they follow the donkey and it goes to a village, and there, lo and behold, are the four guys that they saw,” Work said.

From there, the story becomes a bit, uh, difficult to believe, but it's worth a laugh.

From the Washington Post:

The lieutenant who oversaw the sergeant was shocked, Work said.

“How in the heck, this is really good,” the lieutenant said, according to Work. “What were you thinking?”

The sergeant’s response, according to Work: “Sir, I was born on a farm. I was raised on a farm. … I’ve been following jackasses my whole life.”

Work relayed the story to a group of U.S. soldiers stationed in Guam.

“You’re never going to leave your buddy behind under any circumstances. Never,” he said. “That’s what makes this force so special. It’s not the generals; it’s the enlisted force. You have always been the backbone of the American military.”