EDINBURGH — The number of female leaders dropping out of the work force is skyrocketing, but one woman is tripling down on jobs that include serving both the community and country.
At 22-years-old, Chloe Barnes defies numbers in every way.
“I’m short, I only stand five-foot-four, one-hundred-thirty pounds,” Barnes said.
No matter her height or weight, she’s a competitive powerlifter.
With an effortless looking lift, Barnes says she thinks she’s lifted up to 160 lbs before.
In March, she had her second ever powerlifting competition. She shined.
“I finished first in my weight class and group. I set new personal records in every lift, so I can’t complain,” Barnes said.
The Franklin native calls powerlifting a fun challenge.
“You’re testing your body not only physically, but mentally. I love that challenge,” Barnes said.
The sport of powerlifting has been rapidly growing in popularity.
The number of female powerlifters doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 competitors within the last few years.
Barnes says she was dropped into the sport on accident. She started lifting for a sports strength program with her high school coach.
“Even when I started lifting with him, my intention wasn’t to start competing, but I realized I was good at it,” Barnes said.
She was so good at powerlifting that it helped her join the Indiana Army National Guard.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get in. They would’ve told me to go eat a burger,” Barnes said.
Barnes is now a Combat Engineer, Sergeant and team leader.
“There’s so much that goes into it back home, especially as being a new team leader,” Barnes said. “I’ve got to take care of my soldiers. At any time of the day, they could message or call me about a problem they may be having.”
According to the Department of Defense data from 2017, Barnes is part of the 17% of female active-duty military members.
“Oh God, I do so much,” Barnes said with a smile.
Even more, Barnes is part of the 5% of all female career firefighters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I live 30 seconds away from my firehouse. It’s very convenient for going to work in the mornings,” Barnes said.
Wearing three hats as a powerlifter, soldier and firefighter fills her life with purpose.
“You never know when something could go wrong and the guy behind me s going to have to drag me out, or he can go down and I have to drag him out,” Barnes said.
Barnes says currently, only two women serve as career firefighters in Franklin.
“I try to work out one to two times a day, which would include running in the morning plus doing some sort of weight training in the evening or afternoon,” Barnes said.
It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the gains in living a life defying the odds with success measured in as many ways as possible.
“[For other women who are watching this], whatever you set your mind to, whether that is working in an office job or being a firefighter, solider, whatever you want, what’s stopping you?” Barnes asked.
For now, Barnes still trains in competitive powerlifting with her coach in Franklin.
Her next competition is to be determined, but if you watch American Ninja Warrior, you might see a familiar face sometime soon.