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The History of Sawyer

In 1954 the government entered into negotiations with Marquette County for Sawyer's lease. After several months of meetings and negotiations, a 99 year lease was signed on January 24, 1955. Construction started almost immediately. Approximately 850 people were employed during the construction and several local contractors were involved.

Picture of a B-52On January 24, 1956 Lt/Col Robert L. Blocklehurst became the first commander of K.I. Sawyer AFB. The runway was completed in 1957 and in 1958 25 F-102 Aircraft were sent TDY (Temporary Duty) from Kinross AFB at Sault Ste. Marie to operate out of Sawyer for several months, while the runways at Kinchelo were being repaired and extended.

The 62nd F1S from O'Hare airport in Chicago was transferred to Sawyer and became an operational F-101 "Voodoo" squadron in 1959 after the runways at Sawyer were extended to 12,300 feet.

The Strategic Air Command (SAC) became operational as a tenant unit with the assignment of a KC-135 Air Refueling Squadron and soon was replaced by the 46th Air Refueling Squadron. The first B-52H arrived at Sawyer in August 1961 along with the 410th Bomb Wing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Air Defense Sector (SAGE) continued in operation until September 1963 and in January 1964 control of the base was passed from the Air Defense Command to the Strategic Air Command, leaving the 410 Bomb Wing as the host unit to date.

The f-101 equipped 62 Fighter Interceptor Squadron remained at Sawyer as a tenant unit until April 1971 when it was deactivated and replaced by the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and its F-106 Delta Dart aircraft were transferred from Duluth Municipal Airport, Minnesota. The 87th F1S was deactivated and the F-106 aircraft left in 1985.

Other aircraft assigned to Sawyer over the years included H-43B and HH-1H rescue helicopters leaving in 1977. FB-111 aircraft assigned to Pease AFB, New Hampshire were on satellite alert at Sawyer in 1974 and 1975. The last aircraft assigned to Sawyer were six T-37 jet trainers of the 71 FTW assigned to "Accelerated Copilot enrichment Program" in 1977 and are presently assigned to the "Companion Trainer Program" under the 410 Bomb Wing and the Air Combat Command.

On June 1, 1995, an Inactivation Ceremony was held. By August of the same year, the Base Deactivation Ceremony was held.

The last B-52 left in November of 1994. Sawyer was closed on September 30, 1995. Chief Master Sergeant Vaughn Stewart, the last military member, left in December, 1996.

Sawyer Now:

Situated on over 5,200 acres of land in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, K.I. Sawyer was one of the newest major U.S. bases built by the Air Force and is extremely well suited in its new civilian role. It offers world class industrial and aviation businesses a place to develop. With state of the art air facilities, an excellent highway system, and access to nearby rail, water and highway transportation, demands of all businesses can be met.

Buildings and housing are available on site. Sawyer comprises an outstanding mixture of commercial and industrial facilities which encompasses well over one million square feet of floor space. Additionally, the unique location can provide companies to grow on a regional, national and global scale. The area's work force is among the most productive and loyal in the United States with a cost of living index averaging 10 - 30 % lower than many other national locations with similar facilities. Gwinn is located a few miles from Sawyer and provides most shopping and schooling needs.

By September 25, 1999, air carrier passengers were entering and leaving from Sawyer. A new terminal building was completed by September 25, 1999 and is next to one of the longest runways in North America. Located on the original airport site picked by Marquette County's first road commission superintendent, Kenneth I. Sawyer, the new airport is ideally positioned for serving the central Upper Peninsula.

Sawyer International Airport is one of 12 airports nationwide that competed for and was selected for inclusion in a special funding category created by the U.S. Congress. As part of the military airports program, Sawyer International Airport received special funding.

Sawyer International Airport is ready for the next century's airfleets, including jumbo jets with a 12,500 ft. runway.

June 6, 1998 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and U.S. representative, Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, announced that redevelopment efforts at K.I. Sawyer have reached a milestone that skeptics once said was impossible. There are now 919 full time civilian employees working at Sawyer which tops the figure of 788 when the base was active. Many more projects are soon to be announced. Many homes are now rented, but more are available. The street names have remained the same, and the buildings are changing to businesses, but now civilians live at Sawyer.





Gwinn Sawyer Chamber of Commerce