Serving campus and country
MUPD officer reflects on tour with Air Force National Guard
Story by: Sara Diedrich
For Officer Cain Anliker, service to the University of Missouri Police Department and the U.S. military is an extension of the values he grew up with in his small Iowa hometown.
In July, Anliker left MUPD temporarily for a six-month tour of duty with the Air Force National Guard in the Horn of Africa, the only officer in recent years to be deployed overseas while working at the department.
Anliker, who grew up in Renwick, Iowa — population 255 — says traveling to a different continent and living among people from around the world have expanded his horizons and helped him hone skills he believes will make him a more conscientious police officer when he returns. Most important, serving his country has taught Anliker, 24, to more deeply appreciate that while each person is unique, everyone values an effort to be understood and respected.
“When I joined the military, I definitely had to grow up fast,” Anliker said. “It was a major culture shock at first. But now I’ve worked with people from all over the United States and, since being deployed, with people from all over the world. I’ve learned that everybody has a different way of thinking.
“As a police officer, you sometimes meet people on their worst day,” he added. “But no matter what, it’s important to treat people with respect because you never know what they might be going through.”
Chief Doug Schwandt says it is an honor to have an active member of the military on his police force.
“Cain’s dedication and service to our country is only enhanced by his commitment to the profession of law enforcement and helping keep our campus safe,” he said.
Long before Anliker embarked on a career in law enforcement, he dreamed of playing professional sports — his backup plan was to be a firefighter.
The youngest of two children — his big sister lives and works in Columbia — Anliker was a gregarious, athletic boy, who played basketball in the winter, baseball in the summer and hung out with friends in between. When they weren’t indoors playing video games, Anliker and his buddies were outdoors, shooting hoops and riding four-wheelers.
His family is typical of their small Iowa town. His dad works full time at a grain elevator and part time as an EMT. Before that, he worked as a dispatcher for the Humboldt County law enforcement center for almost 10 years. His mom is an office manager at an area medical office.
The Anliker family also took an interest in people with special needs in their community, often taking them shopping and helping with chores. The example spoke volumes to young Cain.
“It taught me to never judge a book by its cover,” Anliker said. “You need to give everyone a chance and hear their story.”
At school, the outgoing Anliker had a penchant for talking in class, a shortcoming that, despite his affable nature, wore on his teachers’ nerves.
“My teachers would always tell my parents that they loved having me in their class, but they wished that sometimes I’d just be quiet and listen,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Anliker knew college wasn’t in his immediate future. So he reached out to a cousin who had already spent two years in the U.S. Air Force. She encouraged him to enlist, and he did, joining the Air Force in September 2012. After finishing basic training, he attended a technical school at Fort Leonard Wood and became a vehicle operator. Eventually, he spent 3 ½ years in active duty, including a stint in United Arab Emirates. Finally, he transferred to the Iowa Air National Guard and pursued training as a firefighter.
Though he was pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter, Anliker soon realized he was better suited for a career that involved more interaction with people. That’s when he called his uncle, Lt. Buddy Anliker with the MU police department. The elder Anliker has been with MUPD for 28 years and will be the first to admit he gets anxious when a family member approaches him about a career in law enforcement.
However, his nephew was different. While Cain was always the jokester of the family, upbeat and ready with a silly quip, his uncle also recognized the younger Anliker’s generous nature and desire to make a difference in the world. He encouraged him to follow his heart, and Cain joined the department in January 2018.
“With his personality, I thought it was a good fit,” Buddy Anliker said.
Not only has Cain Anliker grown up during his time in the military, but he also has come to appreciate his family and all the people who have helped him along the way.
“I couldn’t have been blessed with a better family growing up,” he said. “It took me leaving home to realize that. My family, especially my parents, have always supported me and encouraged me.”
As for his Uncle Buddy, Anliker is especially thankful for his guidance.
“He is the reason I am in law enforcement and the reason I want to push myself to become the best cop I can possibly be,” he said. “He has helped me every step of the way, and I will forever be grateful for what he has done for me. If I can be half the cop my uncle is, I will consider that a successful career.”