K.I. Sawyer AFB was a favorite base among the SAC community. Although isolated and definitely northern, it was an attractive base for its pleasing North Woods location and its proximity to outdoor activities off the base, including hunting, fishing, boating, and winter sports (including Marquette Mountain, "Cliffs Ridge" until 1982), as well as the venues on site (base lake, ski hill, and others).
While the base was sometimes referred to as "K.I. Siberia" and there was an abundance of lake effect snow, it was not the bitter sub-zero temperatures and wind chills and hot summers of the tree-sparse North Dakota bases, or the confinement of the bases in the more established communities of the northeastern states.
Locals maintained that the K.I. Sawyer runway was built over some of the best blueberry fields in the state. Berry patches remained on many other parts of the base, and families of aircrew members often picked them near the alert barracks and the family center.
A portion of the operational section of K.I. Sawyer AFB has been converted into Sawyer International Airport, which opened its passenger terminal for service in September 1999. It replaced the smaller Marquette County Airport, just southwest of Marquette, as the region's primary civilian airport.
In recent years, a group of local citizens interested in preserving the historical significance of the base have collected six aircraft of the types used actively at various times through the base's history to be displayed near the airport. The program is known as the "Sawyer 6" project.
K.I. Sawyer | Brief History
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.
Situated on over 5,200 acres of land in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base was one of the newest major U.S. bases built by the Air Force. Utilizing the world-class air facilities located at Sawyer, aircraft operators have access to an all weather runway 12,300 feet long and 300 feet wide.
The last aircraft assigned to Sawyer were six T-37B jet trainers of the 71st Flying Training Wing assigned to the ''Accelerated Copilot Enrichment Program'' in 1977 and are presently assigned to the ''Companion Trainer Program'' under the 410th Bomb Wing and the Air Combat Command.
On June 1, 1995, an Inactivation Ceremony was held. By August of 1995 the Base Deactivation Ceremony took place. The last B-52H left K. I. Sawyer in November of 1994. The nineteen B-52H's from the 410th Bomb Wing were relocated to Barksdale Air Force Base and Minot Air Force Base and became part of the 2nd and 5th Bomb Wings. K. I. Sawyer closed on September 30, 1995.