Rear Adm. Sawyer, a native of Phoenix, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering. He received a master's degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University.
A career submarine officer, he served as a division officer on USS Bluefish (SSN 675); as engineer officer on USS Florida (SSBN 728) (Blue); and executive officer on USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716). His afloat command assignments were aboard USS La Jolla (SSN 701) and Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam.
For shore duty assignments, Sawyer served on the Joint Staff, Operations Directorate as a branch chief for Anti-terrorism and Force Protection; deputy director for Operations at Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet; executive assistant to the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet; Bureau of Naval Personnel as the submarine force placement officer and assistant captain detailer; as an instructor at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center, Atlantic; chief of staff of United States Strategic Command Special Activities; and, commander, Submarine Force Atlantic. He also served as vice commander, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command. Sawyer most recently commanded Submarine Group 7 in Yokosuka, Japan.
Sawyer's personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.