The Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) uses a dedicated 300-fiber, narrow-band near-infrared (1.51-1.7 μm), high resolution (R~22,500) spectrograph to survey approximately 100,000 giant stars across the Milky Way. This three-year survey, in operation since late-summer 2011 as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS III), will revolutionize our understanding of the kinematical and chemical enrichment histories of all Galactic stellar populations. We present the performance of the instrument from its first year in operation. The instrument is housed in a separate building adjacent to the 2.5-m SDSS telescope and fed light via approximately 45-meter fiber runs from the telescope. The instrument design includes numerous innovations including a gang connector that allows simultaneous connection of all fibers with a single plug to a telescope cartridge that positions the fibers on the sky, numerous places in the fiber train in which focal ratio degradation had to be minimized, a large mosaic-VPH (290 mm x 475 mm elliptically-shaped recorded area), an f/1.4 six-element refractive camera featuring silicon and fused silica elements with diameters as large as 393 mm, three near-infrared detectors mounted in a 1 x 3 mosaic with sub-pixel translation capability, and all of these components housed within a custom, LN2-cooled, stainless steel vacuum cryostat with dimensions 1.4-m x 2.3-m x 1.3-m.