Military personnel traditionally have been major blood donors, and now with hundreds of thousands of troops away in the Middle East, blood drive sponsors need civilian volunteers to replenish dwindling supplies.

At the request of the Pentagon, the Red Cross has begun shipping 1,000 pints of blood weekly to the Persian Gulf. The donations could be increased to more than 800 pints a day if there is a war, said Elizabeth Hall, spokeswoman for the national headquarters of the American Red Cross.

The military operates its own blood banks, but depends on the Red Cross to supplement them in times of need, she said. The Persian Gulf crisis, according to Hall, comes at a time that the nation's blood supply is usually low because of a slowdown in donations during the December holidays.

As Congress wrangled over the Persian Gulf crisis this week, people lined up around the region to donate blood for those in need both in the Middle East and in this country.

"Operation Desert Shield really touches a lot of people when they know how much those guys need the blood," said Allyson Silver, sales manager at the Marriott Suites Alexandria, where a blood drive on Thursday brought in 98 donors.

Although the Red Cross has not issued a national call for emergency donations, the Marriott hotel chain and the radio station WCXR are sponsoring 14 blood drives around the region, and Red Cross chapters have planned nearly a dozen more.

"I was trying to figure out what we could do to help {the troops} . . . . Over Christmas people were sending over things that weren't needed," said WCXR promotion director Mark Lapidus. The station will sponsor drives at Marriott hotels on Monday in Greenbelt and Crystal City, Wednesday at Tysons Corner and Thursday in Rosslyn and in the District.

The military mobilization has led to domestic blood shortages in areas near military bases, because activated troops are forbidden to give blood, Hall said.

"Military personnel have for many, many years been good donors. Now a huge number of people are in the gulf and a lot of that blood is not available because they need it themselves," said Dave Goetz, director of public relations and financial development for the Prince William chapter of the American Red Cross, which is sponsoring a drive Jan. 19 with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Dale City.

Although encouraged by the public response, Red Cross officials expressed concern that some of the blood could go to waste if war is not declared. Blood is good for only 42 days after donation.

"We don't need half of America to come into blood donor centers on Tuesday," Hall said. "We need them to come in over a long period of time."