Rapid eye movements (REM) are characteristic of the eponymous phase of sleep, yet the underlying motor commands remain an enigma. Here, we identified a cluster of Calbindin-D28K-expressing neurons in the Nucleus papilio (NPCalb), located in the dorsal paragigantocellular nucleus, which are active during REM sleep and project to the three contralateral eye-muscle nuclei. The firing of opto-tagged NPCalb neurons is augmented prior to the onset of eye movements during REM sleep. Optogenetic activation of NPCalb neurons triggers eye movements selectively during REM sleep, while their genetic ablation or optogenetic silencing suppresses them. None of these perturbations led to a change in the duration of REM sleep episodes. Our study provides the first evidence for a brainstem premotor command contributing to the control of eye movements selectively during REM sleep in the mammalian brain.