NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Members of the Air Force are encouraged to “aim high” in their roles. An airman at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve station did just that, and is being recognized for it.

Senior Master Sgt. Jose R. Pagan Jr. was recognized as the Air Force First Sergeant of the Year at a national conference in Florida. The award highlights a sergeant who has cultivated health, morale and readiness, as well as who has exhibited exemplary leadership qualities.

Pagan is credited with leading an evacuation that saved the lives of 155 airmen during a missile attack while deployed to Iraq, and for reducing widespread pay issues, among other achievements.

“Senior Master Sergeant Pagan’s selection as the First Sergeant of the Year is an honor that is bestowed as the “Best of the Best," Command Chief for the 914th ARW, Chief Master Sgt. Donald Peters said in a statement. "The airmen of this level of recognition is one that truly shows the “whole airmen concept” that I have personally witnessed as his Command Chief while he is in military status as well as meeting the peers, subordinates, and students he works with during his civilian status. His display of care, passion, and professionalism was recognized while in face of extremely difficult situations in a hostile environment. I am very proud of his accomplishments and truly honored to continue to work with him here at Niagara Falls.”

At the time of his nomination, he was the first sergeant for the 914th Maintenance Squadron. Pagan is currently the first sergeant for the 914th Air Refueling Wing.