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Department names battalion chiefs
3 Ensley mug

The new year brought change to Dawson County Emergency Services as Chief Lanier Swafford named the department’s first three battalion chiefs.


Veteran firefighters and paramedics Benjie Ensley, Milton Keller and Robby Lee assumed their new management roles Thursday.


Each man has more than 20 years of experience and was promoted from within the department after an intense evaluation period, Swafford said.


The battalion chiefs are responsible for daily management of the respective shifts, including overseeing personnel and responses, among other emergency management tasks.


Adding battalion chiefs to daily operations has been a goal for several years, one that evolved with the growth of the department and rise in emergency responses.


Nine internal candidates were considered for the newly created positions.


The evaluation included a 100-question written exam, an interview with a panel of outside emergency services personnel and scenario-based testing that simulated responses and actions.


“We’re extremely proud of all the individuals that tested and those that took the time to better themselves,” Swafford said. “But through this testing process, we feel confident that we’ve selected the right individuals for these important positions.”


Ensley began his career on an ambulance in Gainesville before serving in Gilmer, Pickens and Dawson counties.


He has held several leadership roles in his 22 years in emergency services, including shift captain for Dawson County since 2004.


A state-certified firefighter and paramedic, Ensley holds numerous fire and emergency medical certifications and has received several citations for his service.


“I appreciate the opportunity to be employed by DCES and to have the chance to serve as one of the county’s first battalion chiefs is an honor,” he said. “I hope I can continue to positively contribute to Dawson County Emergency Services.”


Milton Keller joined the department in late 2008 after a 26-year career with the Hall County Fire Department, where he also served as a battalion chief. 


In addition to holding state certifications as a firefighter and paramedic, Keller is nationally certified as a Fire Officer II and is skilled in hazardous materials, rope rescue and search and rescue.


He said he looks forward to being a part of Dawson County Emergency Services’ growing and progressive level of service.


Hall County native Robby Lee’s career spans a variety of public service endeavors, although his heart always has been with fire and emergency services.


Lee began his career by attending EMT school, but later became a law enforcement officer. During his service, he was promoted to supervisory roles with the sheriff’s offices in Forsyth and Lumpkin counties.


For the past 10 years Lee has been employed with Dawson County Emergency Services, having previously served as captain of the training division.


Lee has 20 years of EMS experience and 12 years as a firefighter. He is a state and nationally certified firefighter and paramedic with many certifications, including instructor.


“Becoming one of Dawson County’s first battalion chiefs is indeed an honor,” Lee said. “I look forward to assisting with the continued professional growth of the department in one of the state’s fastest growing counties.”


Swafford said the battalion chief evaluations also set the stage for additional promotions within the department, including captains and lieutenants, which likely will follow in the next few weeks.


E-mail Michele Hester at