I was watching Star Trek The Next Generation the other day. It was the pilot episode, part II. Q (John Delancie) shows up and Picard yells “At ease!”
That’s a standard military order.
What he said next wasn’t: “That’s an order!”
I’ve heard this particular phrase from Hollywood military a lot. Turned up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on a fairly regular basis, and seems to be in just about anything in the media with military.
Never heard an officer in the Army actually say that phrase.
I think this shows up in Hollywood is because a lot of people really don’t understand the rank structure or officers vs. enlisted. We’re taught right from the first day at basic training about following the orders of the people in charge.
Because in a war, not following the orders can cause soldiers to get killed. In the film A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise gets a Marine colonel on the stand and traps him into confessing because that movie did understand how orders worked (Tom Cruise was pretty far away from anything military in his characterization though). Everyone kept trying to say the people involved hadn’t followed orders, but the colonel was adamant that everyone followed orders because lives would be in jeopardy if they didn’t.
The officers don’t need to tell the people under them what they say is an order. We all know it is.
This is a 7 step illustration of what “at ease” looks like.